Chris Lu has run a food truck and opened two cafes (Flower Child) but in some ways, Happy as Larry is his first project. Now open in the CBD, it shares a name with the truck Lu runs with Adam Choker and Anthony Severino, but the idea has been years in the making.
“Four years ago, before the truck, the three of us signed a lease for a venue on Foley Street in Darlinghurst,” Lu says. “I was doing some digging and found out that the street was named for Larry Foley, a bare-knuckle boxer in the 1800s who was in the tabloids at the time for getting paid for his fighting. It’s where the common phrase ‘Happy as Larry’ comes from. That project fell through, but I have held on to the idea for a long time.”
In tribute to the legend, cartoons of Larry Foley baring his knuckles adorn the menu and the venue’s exterior. Inside, the split-level space is fitted out with retro cream and red leather seating (the colours of the boxing ring).
The venue was designed by Choker’s sister, Caroline (and her husband Vince Alafaci) of ACME&CO (the design firm behind The Grounds, The Grounds in the City and Fred’s). Happy as Larry sources its coffee, pastries and breads from The Grounds, which is owned by Choker’s brother Ramzay.
Pizza is front and centre on the menu but it’s different to what’s served from the food truck, which is (uncertified) Verace Pizza Napoletana. Because delivery is an important part of the restaurant, it needed to change. “Neapolitan pizza doesn’t deliver well: there’s no oil in crust, it uses a wet cheese, a wet base. So Anthony started experimenting to create a drier, crispier pizza. He came up with a hybrid between a Roman and a Neapolitan.” The result is fluffier than a Roman pizza, but crispier than a Neapolitan, “and it delivers beautifully,” Lu says.
Pizzas come topped with twists on classics. Their version of a ham and pineapple sees speck sourced from Pino’s Dolce Vita served with pineapple, ricotta, jalapeno and mint. Any pasta sauce can come served on zucchini noodles for a lighter lunch; and there are ciabatta sandwiches too.
But the menu is not entirely Italian. “Everything has an Italian twist but we have carried over some of the things we know we do well at Flower Child,” says Lu. There’s a Middle Eastern lamb-shoulder salad and a fried-chicken sandwich. The breakfast menu includes an acai bowl and a falafel-based vegan bowl.
Happy as Larry
23 Jamison Street, Sydney
Mon-Fri 5pm–9pm (delivery only)