Snug and cosy, Delucas Pizza is Darby Street's own little osteria, serving simple pizza and pasta dishes, beer and wine and other drinks to a devoted cohort of casual diners and their friends.
Here, Delucas have been slinging pies for quite a while and the dining formula doesn't seem to have changed all that much since the last time Weekender was here, six years ago.
The service is swift and space is tight, so booking is essential on any night of the week.
You won't find pineapple pieces on any of the pizzas, or a lot of cheese for that matter. If it ain't broke, I suppose ...
On Thursday nights, the dulcet blue tones of an alfresco jazz band serenades Darby Street, drawing in potential diners towards the dimly lit dining room, which glows cherry red, warm and welcoming.
Every nook and cranny is filled with guests quietly chatting between themselves.
They're sat at timber tables and chairs bathed in the crimson hue of a series of scallop bell shaped lampshades, underneath a few gently spinning fans that move around the warm spring air.
Above the heads of diners, written on a long and narrow mirror, are tonight’s specials.
There's antipasto, zucchini flowers, gorgonzola gnocchi, meatballs and garlic prawn pizza just to name a few.
Meat lovers and vegetarians may yet be able to dine out here together, as friends, as both are well catered for.
Four pumpkin and ricotta arrancini ($12) are served with a dusting of salt and a small dish filled with aioli.
A crispy crunch yields soft pumpkin and gooey ricotta melding together inside, making it a moreish entree perfect for two.
An accompanying rocket and parmesan salad has a bright burst of lemon dressing that would refresh even the most exhausted palate.
Next to the specials, a little further along the wall, is a small list of Australian and imported wines and beer, Coopers, Wild Yak, Estrella and so on.
It’s BYO night (Tues-Thurs, wine only) so a bottle has been brought from home - a Bordeaux blend by Frankland Estate Wines, WA.
Big, but soft and surprisingly sappy, the wine is a terrific foil for the rustic, and sometimes adventurous, flavours of Delucas pizzas.
For instance, while the margarita is a traditional tip of the cap to this restaurant's Italian roots, as is the roasted pumpkin with fetta and baby spinach, the standard pepperoni is tweaked with ricotta and mint, and the choirizo sausage pizza comes with cherry tomatoes, creamed leek, and cornichons. It’s an odd combo, to be sure, but strangely tasty nonetheless, with the cornichons providing a bizarre briny crunch.
The toppings are cooked on a thin, crumbly base that softly breaks apart in the mouth.
The prosciutto with confit tomato and ‘mozza balls’ is simple and straightforward, and reminds me of a pizza joint in West London that I used to eat at more often than I should have.
There’s plenty of takeaway options available too, meaning Delucas Pizza is great for a quiet night in or out with family and friends.
- What: Delucas Pizza
- Where: 159B Darby Street, Cooks Hill (02) 4929 3555
- Owner: Gino and Sharon Palmieri
- Drinks: Beer, wine, soft drinks (BYO Tues-Thurs)
- Hours: Tuesday-Sunday from 6pm
- Vegetarian: Yes
- Bottom Line: $90 for two incl. drinks
- Wheelchair Access: Yes
- Do Try: Prosciutto pizza, rocket and parmesan salad