When it comes to pizza, two sayings come to mind ... 'See Naples and die' ... meaning, in this life, there is only one pizza from one place worth eating; and, 'pizza is like sex; if it's good it's good, and if it's bad, it's still good', which explains a lot, when you think about it.
Newcastle's pie scene continues to flourish with the recent opening of DiRoma Pizzeria, Merewether. Painted black, on the corner of Glebe Road and Smith Street, owners Riccardo Tirini and Davide Vacca are flying the flag for Roman-scrocchiarella (crispy, crunchy)-style pizzas, in their contemporary-cum-rustic little corner of the city.
Despite mostly dealing in takeaways, DiRoma's dining room still has plenty of space to seat couples, families and friends for some casual eats under the high ceiling and timber beams, which stretch out over an array of suspended Edison lights, right in front the whitewashed timber facade of the kitchen.
Just behind the pass the busy kitchen staff can be seen, moving back and forth, preparing an increasing number of orders that come in thick and fast by phone and in person. A small sign with flip-book like pages reads 35' minutes, then 40', then 45'... thankfully, it doesn't go much higher than 45' before we place our order.
Pizza's come in two sizes, the six-slice regular (28cm) and the eight-slice large (33cm). There are straightforward classics, like plain cheese pizza ($5.95) on a tomato base, pepperoni made with thin slices of mild salami, and Margherita ($12.95) made with fresh basil and Italian buffalo mozzarella. Also, Prosciutto ($15.95) on a tomato or garlic butter base topped with parma prosciutto, rocket leaves and shaved Parmigiano, the devil's favourite pizza, Diavola ($14.95), and more with a gourmet or Australian-themed twist; like Roasted Lamb, Tenderloin Truffle, the Meat Lover, Prawn Lover, Veggie Lover, and Supreme.
Entratas, that is, entrée in Italian, include garlic bread ($4.95) and a cheesy variation thereof, a tomato-laden bruscetta ($7.95) that's made on a garlic butter bread roll with oregano and basil leaves, an antipasto platter ($14.95) that sounds like a meal by itself; featuring prosciutto parma, salami, soppressa, artichokes, buffalo mozzarella, shaved slices of Parmigiano, semi-dried tomatoes and olives, and a version of Rome's famous Ligurian pizza, otherwise known as focaccia ($6.95).
DiRoma makes salads too - rocket, Caesar, Greek, Caprese, and tuna - plus pasta dishes made with fettuccini, spaghetti, penne, ricotta ravioli, as well as lasagne.
Sitting at one of DiRoma's square timber tables with a bottle of red wine, brought from home, an order is placed for a regular-sized Diavola and 4 Formaggi pizza, plus a bruschetta to start, in order to kill some time during the 45-minute wait. A bottle of tap water and some glasses are lifted from a side table just by the entrance to the restaurant. The free BYO is a nice touch.
The wine is cracked (a light and spicy bottle of De Iullis 2017 Sangiovese) and it's not very long before the bruschetta arrives. The bread is fresh and doughy, soaked with garlic butter, loaded with halved cherry tomatoes, a few sprigs of basil and flecks of garlic. Although a little on the soggy side, the fresh-enough flavours will have you salivating for mains, which arrive sooner than later.
The Diavola isn't exactly the devil incarnate, but it will have all you mildly spicy pizza fiends foaming at the mouth; hot slices of salami soppressa, capsicum, onions, tinned black olives and jalapeños will ignite your senses with gentle, fiery flavours, which you can swiftly suppress with a slice of 4 Formaggi pizza. A crispy crème fraîche base is covered with melted Italian buffalo mozzarella, oozy and sweet Gorgonzola, crumbly feta and grated Parmigiano. It's a cheese fiend’s dream and the pick of the traditional Italian pizza options, for me.
DiRoma is quietly bringing tasty Roman style pizza and pasta to the citizens of Newcastle, and for the city's hungry, pizza-loving citizens … it’s good.
- What: DiRoma Pizzeria, 144 Glebe Rd, Merewether. Open 7 days, 5pm to 9pm. 4961 4441
- Owners: Riccardo Tirini & Davide Vacca
- Drinks: Free BYO, Italian and others.
- Vegetarian: Yes
- Bottom Line: $39 for two (no drinks)
- Wheelchair Access: Yes
- Do Try: 4 Formaggi pizza