Talking to Dino Fonzone and Davide Piscopo about pizza is like listening to two evangelists talk about god. They have so much enthusiasm, pride and confidence it feels impossible not to convert to their faith – the belief that Neapolitan pizza is not only the greatest pizza style on earth, but essential to being Neapolitan. “For us it’s our pride. It shows Napoli is not just bad things like they say,” says Fonzone, referring to the southern Italian city’s reputation as dangerous and Mafia run.
Neapolitan pizza is one of many kinds of traditional Italian pizzas. It’s characterised by big, blistered, bready crusts and ultra-thin, sloppy bases. The dough is fermented and, traditionally, all ingredients sourced from southern Italy. “I use Italian flour [Caputo 00] and San Marzano tomatoes that grew next to Vesuvius, but fresh mozzarella from here. I don't want to use frozen cheese from Italy,” says Piscopo.
The classic Neapolitan toppings are margherita (tomatoes, mozzarella and basil) and marinara (tomatoes, oregano and garlic). All pizzas, regardless of toppings, should be blasted for less than a minute in a wood-fired oven, also from Naples.
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It gets very technical beyond that, but it’s all specified by Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), a Naples-based NGO that sets out the rules for what is and isn’t a Neapolitan pizza, as well as providing certification for those who make them. Postcard from Napoli is one of only eight pizzerias in Sydney to be awarded AVPN certification.
“The best thing was when the [head of Sydney accreditation at AVPN] Lucio [De Falco of Lucio Pizzeria) came. He saw our dough and he looked at me like a baby and said, ‘can I make a pizza with your dough?’,” says Fonzone.
Fonzone and Piscopo’s idea for Postcard from Napoli was to import more of Neapolitan life to Sydney than just pizza. They opened it in 2017 and see the restaurant as a representation of their home and culture and want their Italian staff to treat customers like they would be treated in Naples.
They want to serve Italian wine and introduce the people of Oatley, a Sydney suburb 18 kilometres south of the CBD, to their grandparents’ food: handmade pasta, potato gnocchi and dishes like provola al sugo (hunks of cheese in a thick tomato sauce served with bread) and parmigiana (the old-school, wood-fire baked Naples version of an eggplant parmigiana). “If you ask, are we Italian? We say no, we are Neapolitan,” says Fonzone. “Of course, we are Australian in our heart too.”
It’s been a long journey for Fonzone. Ten years ago, he was studying economics in Naples but left to follow his dream. “I enjoyed less working in banks in Italy than working as a dishwasher here. Food has always been my passion. For us it's not about eating, it's a culture and about bringing people together. My family dinners, we'd sit down at 4pm and stand up at 10pm.”
The problem for Fonzone was he didn’t know how to cook. That’s where Piscopo came in. One night, Fonzone and his wife (who he met in Australia) went for pizza, hoping for something Neapolitan. “I ordered antipasti and pizza. The pizza arrived then the antipasti. I was like come on guys. Then I heard a strong Neapolitan accent saying, ‘No, no. What did you do?’.” Fonzone went into the kitchen and he recognised Piscopo, a fellow Neapolitan he’d partied with in London.
“It has been like a marriage for us, but we never fight. The best marriage,” says Fonzone.
Postcard from Napoli
Shop 2/93 Mulga Road, Oatley
(02) 8021 8403
Tue to Fri 5pm–10pm
Sat 12–3pm, 5pm–10pm
Sun 12–3pm, 5pm–9.30pm
This is another edition of Broadsheet’s Local Knowledge weekly series, where Nick Jordan explores the eateries at the heart of Sydney’s different cultural communities. Read more here.
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on January 21, 2020. Menu items may have changed since publication.