For Ken Williams and Drew Huston, the decision to move their lo-fi pizzeria Dimitri’s from the Crown Street spot it’s been in since the 1990s to a new location on Oxford Street was a simple one.
“We weren’t going to be able to fulfil our plans at the previous location, so we moved here,” Williams says. “It’s literally only a two-minute walk away.”
Those plans include, most significantly, the adoption of a larger kitchen equipped with a traditional Italian-made woodfired oven, something Williams has been longing for since he and Huston took over the business – which was established in 1975 – eight years ago.
“We just didn’t have the capacity at the old location to make the pizza we truly wanted to make,” he explains. “The stone-hearth electric oven we had cooked at 150 degrees Celsius, [which] is less than what we can do now. This provides a much better finished product.”
With the new oven comes a change of dough: it’s now 100 per cent sourdough, made with a combination of Australian and Italian stone-ground flours. It’s all part of the team’s pursuit of flavour over tradition, and quality and seasonality over convention. “I don’t feel like we’re hindered by tradition,” says Williams. “We’re focused on our beautiful new oven and getting the most beautiful pizzas out of it that we can.”
The Sweet Leaf pizza comes with house-stretched mozzarella, fermented lemon, herbs gathered (in part) from planters on the new store’s rooftop, and honey from Williams’s mother’s hives. The Brussel Crowe is topped with wood-roasted brussels sprouts, fermented lemon ricotta, caramelised onion and fennel, and cubes of smoked scamorza (a southern-Italian stretched curd cheese).
“We’re focusing on vegetarian pizzas, and then we give the customers the opportunity to add a quality cut of meat on top of that,” says Williams.
Along with a logo-covered window from the old location – now framed, illuminated and suspended from the ceiling – Williams and Huston have transported their selection of craft beers and (mostly Italian) natural wines. Highlights include a lush skin-contact vermentino from Ephemera in Victoria, and the Wild Australian Ale from Wildflower in Marrickville.
The drinks list exemplifies the pair’s preference for the natural, echoed in the exposed brick and natural timbers used throughout the new space. “We’re serving a sourdough pizza,” Williams says, “[so] we think it goes hand-in-hand with good-quality natural wine and sour beers.” In the coming months, the second floor and rooftop terrace – both currently being renovated – will be transformed into a “good-quality wine-slash-beer bar” that the pair hope to have open for summer.
Until then, Williams and Huston are excited to share the fulfillment of their pizza dreams downstairs with old and new diners alike.
“It’s been amazing to have so many happy customers in here in our first week,” Williams says, a large neon version of the pizzeria’s revamped logo glowing red on the wall behind him – a copy of a design he has tattooed on his leg. “We’re just doing what we have a passion for. It’s fortunate that our tastes link up with what our customers want too.”
215 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
(02) 8068 4247
Wed to Sat 5pm–late