Inside the mammoth Ultra Football warehouse in Alexandria, Riccardo Bianchini and his team run a diner that feels very much at home alongside Premier League guernseys, exclusive-release boots and an indoor football pitch.
Born in Melbourne and raised in Sicily, Bianchini served Melburnians at neighbourhood venues DOC(link), Cafe e Cucina(link) and Cucina & Co(link) for over 20 years. This is his spot for stripped-back Italian in Sydney. Luckily, he’s also a passionate football fan.
But you don’t have to be to enjoy Zona Azzurri. The menu is simple: woodfired pizza, handmade pasta, salad and salumi.
The pizza dough is proven for 72 hours, which yields a delicate, crisp base that has a light, airy structure. They are then slid in a two-tonne pizza oven shipped from Naples that cooks a pie in a matter of minutes. Toppings include Italian sausage, smoked scamorza and friarielli. The lamb is slow-cooked in white wine and served with hand-cut pappardelle.
Natural light floods the room. It brings warmth to the vast but smartly fitted-out space, which has a concrete floor and grated steel accents. Chefs knead dough and slice cured meats at the pass, which doubles as a long marble bar for diners to sit at and watch the pizza oven in action.
The dining room is filled with teak tables and a giant feature wall where daily specials are projected. No prizes for guessing what it doubles as come a big-game.
If you’re a football fan, you’ll be happy to know Juventus legend Andrea Pirlo’s organic wine label Pratum Coller is available. And if you’re not: it’s a damn fine drop.