The secret to the most amazing Italian food on the North Shore

Daniel Sofo from The Italian Bar Pizza in Willoughby knows a thing or two about authentic Italian food. The restaurant serves up regional dishes inspired by Italy, so who better to reveal the secrets of amazing Italian dishes (and whether or not pineapple actually belongs on pizza!). We quizzed him on his repertoire and the recent changes at The Italian Bar Pizza.

Plus, they’re offering a FREE garlic pizza with every lunch or dinner booking. To redeem, simply book a table online and mention this article in the ‘special requests’ section when completing your booking. Book a table now!

When it comes to home cooking, what’s a pizza mistake people make that drives your crazy?

Daniel Sofo, Owner of The Italian (Willoughby)

Daniel Sofo

Loading on too many ingredients. Real pizza aficionados will tell you – simple is best. Just a few ingredients – let the flavour and texture of the dough speak in harmony with the toppings.

OK, weigh in on the debate: pineapple on pizza! Yes or no?

Absolutely. I have no time for the pizza mafia associations with their stupid rules around what can and can’t go on pizza and where it should come from!

What’s your own personal ultimate pizza topping combo?

Porcini mushroom, fior di latte cheese & a small dash of truffle oil. YUM.

What’s the topping that kids absolutely love? Which one do you reckon is strictly adults-only?

Kids love simplicity. Ham, Cheese, pineapple, tomato. And of course NUTELLA.

Adults appreciate the more pungent flavours of capers, artichokes, stronger cheeses.

What’s your best-selling flavour? Has it changed over time or is it a reliable fave?

The humble Margherita pizza (basil, tomato, fior di latte cheese) has been our #1 seller every day for five years running.

You’ve recently swapped to local, organic pizza flour that’s stone milled on site. What inspired the move?

the-italian_willoughby_credit_kai-leishman_027One evening last year I was looking out at a full dining room at The Italian and realised that 70% of my patrons were kids. Some quick mental math, I concluded I’m literally feeding 20,000-30,000 kids a year. A degree of responsibility comes with that. Pizza has a reputation for being tasty and filling but looking out at a restaurant full of young families it dawned on my that I need to provide food that’s nutritious too.

Nutritious pizza… was it even possible? My curiosity led me down a rabbit hole of research starting with flour and rapidly extending into the evolution of wheat breeding & milling, the art of fermentation, the principles of sourdough baking, and the study of digestion.

How will this new flour make your pizzas better?

the-italian_willoughby_credit_kai-leishman_122In addition to the flour being fresher and more nutritious it is also more enzymatically alive and active which is important for the fermentation process. Having nutritious flour is just the first step. Its important to retain as much of those hard won nutrients throughout the pizza making process as we can! And that means fermenting.

To achieve fermentation I abandoned commercial yeast and switched to sourdough baking principles to make our dough- using a starter called a “Madre”. Its a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria that work together to convert sugars and proteins into something our bodies can utilise well.

What’s most appealing about the Italian way of eating and cooking?

For an Italian eating isn’t just about sustenance. It is the essence of life. The act of eating is savoured, with friends or family or alone. A celebration of something grown, the energy of earth and sun transformed into something we put in our body to give us vitality. It is this attitude toward food that makes Italian cuisine unarguably the worlds most popular.

What experience can customers expect at The Italian Bar Pizza?

the-italian_willoughby_credit_kai-leishman_093-1Warm Italian hospitality from our oh-so-Italian staff Kathleen, Serena, Federico and the gang. Quality pizza, a glass of organic wine, generous portions and lots of love.

What’s your most memorable customer compliment?

I feel the most humbled by guests who have been coming to see us every week since we first opened. There are guests who drive past four pizzerias to get to us. That’s a huge compliment. Ivano our head pizzaiolo gets a real buzz when our little customers step up and tell him his pizza was yum. The ultimate compliment is when at the end of the meal all the plates go to the wash up without a single crumb left.


The Italian Bar Pizza in Willoughby are offering a FREE garlic pizza with every lunch or dinner booking. To redeem, simply book a table online and mention this article in the ‘special requests’ section when completing your booking. Book a table now!

The Italian Bar Pizza in Willoughby is located at Shop 5, 183 -191 High Street. Click here to go to The Italian website.

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