The pizzas at Da Vinci's Italian Restaurant in Summer Hill are one of the best I've tasted in Sydney. Co-owners Nicola Piteo and Valerio Rossi run a smooth, fast and friendly restaurant that brings wood-fired pizzas and artisan gelato to life.
Starring a thin, crunchy base using unrefined stoneground Petra flour imported from Italy, the pizzas at Da Vinci's are made with a dough that's rested for 48 hours. The fact that the flour is unrefined means that it's using the entire wheat grain (whereas refined white flour has had the germ and bran removed). The result is a base that's healthier, a bit darker than other pizzas with a wholemeal kind of flavour and a crispness that can't be beat.
The focaccia ($6.50) is essentially a wood-fired pizza without all the toppings. Start with this if you want to experience the crunch and full flavour of the pizza base without any distractions from toppings.
Bite-sized morsels of Scamorza Affumicata ($9) are next on the agenda. Five little nuggets of smoked mozzarella cheese are wrapped in pancetta and then drizzled with balsamic vinegar. We're off to a splendid start.
Not just for vegetarians, the Norma is a tasty number with a tomato base, fior di latte, deep fried eggplant and salted ricotta ($19). I loved the saltiness of the ricotta juxtaposed with the sweetness from eggplant and tomato.
A diavola pizza has always been one of my favourites. Da Vinci's diavola ($19) does not disappoint. Made with fior di latte, hot salami and black olives, this is the perfect pizza in my view. A bit of spiciness, a sweet whisper from the tomato sugo, and a salty kick from the olives.
It's not an Italian lunch without a refreshing aperitivo. Whether it's an Aperol spritz ($14) made with Aperol, prosecco & soda or a passionfruit spritz ($14) made with passionfruit liqueur, prosecco & soda - you're in for an effervescent treat.
Antonino Lo Iacono gelato-maker extraordinaire learned to make gelato in Sicily from his father (who owned a gelato bar). Tonino opened his first gelato bar in Rome, but after moving to Australia in 2000, he opened Gelateria Caffe 2000, and now has set up shop at Gelatony, stationed at the back of Da Vinci's Restaurant.
I try the lemon zest with fig marmalade and dark chocolate, which received a Jury's Special Mention Award in the Gelato World Tour this year (the one that Cow & The Moon won last year). There's a wonderful interplay between sweetness, tang, and bitterness, creating a perfectly balanced gelato. The chocolate gelato is less complex in comparison. But it's all about that classic, simple chocolate hit. The texture of the gelato is exactly how I like it - creamy, but not too rich.
Most gelaterias in Sydney use pre-mixed gelato bases, but Tonino makes his own. This housemade base is fior di latte, a pure milk gelato that can be used for other milk-based flavours. Staying true to Italian tradition, there's no vanilla flavour to be seen here. In Italy you can only get fior di latte gelato, and none of this vanilla nonsense.
Note: Sarah Han dined at Da Vinci's as a guest of the restaurant.