Da Orlando Woodfire Pizzeria
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The industrial end of Keira Street in Wollongong is one of the last places I'd expect to find authentic Italian cooking. Surrounded by smash repairs and kitchen showrooms, it seems like an odd spot for the three-year-old restaurant.
But business is booming, and most nights of the week you'd be hard-pressed to find a seat.
"You definitely have to book if you want to come in on a Friday night," says co-owner Rennie Pillay. "There's two seating: 6pm and 8pm. Which do you want?"
I choose an 8pm timeslot for a relaxed Friday night catch up with my cousin, and opt for a table outside because indoors is packed and filled with loud, happy people.
A specials board shows a handful of seasonal items, with a couple of seafood dishes – such as frutti de mar risotto – that are perfect for the warm summer nights.
Although renowned locally for their authentic wood fired pizzas (they rest the dough for 72-hours to create a lighter, crisper base), we opt to share the garlic prawns
, polipo salad
, and seafood gnocchi
from the specials board.
The garlic prawns come out perfectly cooked in a small pool of garlic butter and olive oil with the right amount of fresh parsley and two slices of sourdough to mop up the sauce. It's a great way to start.
Rennie, the embodiment of joy and happiness, runs front of house while his business partner, Orlando, (and his mum, Angela) cook up a feast out back. Taking a break as the evening slows down, he chats us through the menu and what brought him from running bars in Sydney to the relaxed vibes of the gong.
"I've worked with Orlando for about 15 years up in Sydney," he explains. "We had a pub in Ultimo and then a bar in King's Cross – just before the lockout laws. Orlando suggested we open an authentic pizzeria down here and I thought 'Why not?'"
It turns out it wasn't much of a gamble, with the success of the shop speaking for itself. "We get heaps of takeaway pizza orders and deliveries," he says. I can attest to the constant flow of delivery drivers walking in and out for the past hour carrying happiness in a box.
After polishing of the prawns, I ask him why they're on the specials menu instead of the main – it seems like an oversight since they're so good – but apparently they're special because they're finally back in stock.
We move on to the polipo salad and the seafood gnocchi, all the while sipping on a Yarra Valley Pinot Noir. (Yes, I know – white for seafood; red for red meat. But I like my Pinot Noir too much to stick to tradition!)
The polipo salad is a fresh medley of grilled baby octopus, celery, garlic, parsley, cherry tomatoes and potato, which was perfect for the warm night. The Seafood Gnocchi was full of buttery prawns and the homemade gnocchi had the ideal melt-in-your-mouth texture you'd expect from Nonna's place.
But the best item on the menu isn't even on the menu. Just wait until you try their homemade chili – you'll be putting it on everything. (Also guys – you should sell this in-store!)
Somehow between us, we managed to polish off the lot as well as two glasses of wine each, and the bill only came to $99 for a delicious (and incredibly filling) Friday night out. Next time, we're getting the pizza.
203675 - 2023-06-16 05:26:29