Step off the Windsor end of Chapel Street into Freddy’s Pizza and the first thing you’ll notice is the roaring woodfire oven. It was built into the space and holds a prime spot just behind the bar.
“Pizza is fun, it’s casual, it’s just a good time,” co-owner Daniel Leuzzi tells Broadsheet. “I love pizza and I love Italian food. It's great to do something you know and something you're comfortable with.”
Leuzzi has worked front of house at local Italian spot La Lucciola and at Tokyo Tina, so he runs the floor here. Co-owner Tom Giurioli (Il Forno) heads up the kitchen.
The two met in 2010 when Leuzzi was still at La Lucciola and Giurioli was a regular customer. They kept in touch over the years, and eventually their separate plans to run an eatery serving food from their Italian heritage came together.
“Tom was [visiting] Rome at the time, and in conversation he said he was thinking of owning his own business – a pizzeria, just like I wanted,” Leuzzi says. “So I told him, ‘When you come back, let’s go 50/50’. And that was that.”
Leuzzi’s family is Italian, though he grew up in Australia, and Giurioli moved here from Rome a decade ago.
“I want people to find us warm and friendly – like we’re family. This is really a part of our heritage,” Giurioli says.
His menu is simple and restrained, leaning on classic flavour combinations and ingredients imported from Italy.
The star is undoubtedly the pizza. Dough is made using Molino Dallagiovanna flour and left to ferment for up to 72 hours, resulting in a crisp crust with a fluffy inside. The base is topped with either white or red sauce, the latter made using San Marzano tomatoes.
What’s the Story Salvatore is red sauce topped with mascarpone, San Daniele prosciutto, fresh rocket and Reggiano – the sweetness of the cheese balances the salty prosciutto. The Danny Zuko – named after John Travolta’s iconic Grease character – is sopressa, fior di latte, red peppers and gorgonzola (cheese comes courtesy of That’s Amore).
Vegetarian options include a cacio e pepe pizza (fior di latte, black pepper, Reggiano and pecorino) and a roast mushroom, garlic and thyme-ricotta number. Gluten-free pizza bases are available, as are vegan-cheese substitutes.
There are three pastas on the menu – spaghetti with zucchini, prawns and bottarga; house-made gnocchi with Wagyu ragu; and mafaldine (a flat, ribbon-like pasta) with broccoli pesto, peas and chilli – alongside a few specials.
For dessert there’s house-made tiramisu and panna cotta, but Giurioli gets a bit of help for the cannoli. He makes the filling himself – fresh ricotta, cinnamon, Cointreau and chocolate chips – but leaves the shell up to the experts at Melbourne’s most popular cannoli shop.
“We get them from our friends at Cannoli Bar in Avondale Heights,” he says. “I think they make the best cannoli shell in Melbourne.”
The pair’s Italian heritage also informs the drinks list. There’s wine made using either Italian or Australian grapes, and beers are either local or imported from Italy.
When it comes to talking about the space, the two laugh nervously.
“It looked ... very different when we came in," Leuzzi says, and Giuroli nods his assent. "We cleaned it up quite a bit, and the two of us were like the head designers. We came in and helped the builders every day, sanded the tables, painted the walls, drilled holes.”
They were particularly horrified by what was once a garish blue wall, which they’ve sanded back to expose the rustic red brick underneath. (There are still hints of the blue, if you squint.)
On the main dining room’s clean white walls vintage prints are illuminated by hanging bulbs that give off a soft, warm glow. The bar is made with gray brick, allowing for an unobstructed view of the woodfire oven in the corner.
Out back the courtyard is sunny in the afternoon and dimly lit at night. The wooden outdoor tables are decked out in classic red and white gingham cloth – a last-minute decision, but a nod to the traditional trattorias and family-run restaurants of Italy.
There are two murals on the wall by Leuzzi’s friend Chloe Ashford; one depicts a piazza in Giurioli’s hometown of Rome, with a lion head fountain and vines growing along the walls. The other is a scene from Calabria, where Leuzzi’s grandfather grew up.
“My first memories of pizza are going to a friend's house on a Friday night and eating pizza, playing Fifa and watching the footy,” Leuzzi recalls. “We want to try and give that same sort of experience to adults – to have them transcend through time back to those days when they take a bite, and just have fun with friends and family.”
78 Chapel Street, Windsor
(03) 9529 2827
Wed to Mon 5pm–late
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on (October 29, 2019). Menu items may have changed since publication.