Tucked away in the quiet North Shore suburb of Willoughby, this upmarket pizzeria puts the emphasis on organics and local produce.

Daniel Sofo (the man behind the Firefly restaurants) and co-owner Adam Lyons (formerly manager of the Walsh Bay-located Firefly), have created a lively little joint with an open kitchen and bar in an area not known for its nightlife. It’s still an early evening and lunch crowd locally, so The Italian operates on full throttle for the ladies for lunch.

The authentic take on regional Italian dishes means the pasta dishes are made with the tradition, unprocessed technique by Sofo’s brother and head chef Olivier. The puglia with broccoli, anchovies and chilli – inspired by the southern heel of Italy – is pleasantly unusual in texture, made with wholemeal and has a crunchy bite.

The antipasto and insalata sections of the menu are bursting with wholesomeness, with the Sicilian caponata vegetables over a little square of polenta and the old-school pork and veal meatballs in tomato sugo are good openers. The 16 pizzas are divided between red and white sauce bases (with the funghi e gorgonzola, the chef’s choice) and are basic without being too simple, with a satisfying hit of sage.

The whole experience, from the mod-rustic timber and exposed brick décor to the trad cooking, veers on the right side of hip in its rendering of a friendly neighbourhood diner.

The Italian
191 High Street, Willoughby
(02) 9967 5469

Lunch, Thurs to Sun noon–2.30pm
Dinner, Tues to Thurs 6pm–10pm
Fri 6pm–11pm
Sat 5.30pm–11pm
Sun 5.30pm–9.30pm
(bookings online only)