Non Solo Pizza (“not just pizza” in Italiano) is, well, a lot more than just pizza. Husband and wife team Vivienne Farnell and Antonio Crisci began NSP in 1997 and it’s proven a winning formula that’s here to stay after almost twenty years feeding and watering the young and old, the hip and discreet alike. The cellar is stocked with wine from Poderi Crisci vineyard - the couple’s more recent Waiheke venture, and NSP’s exotic sibling across the gulf.
Come summer Non Solo is in its element. The staff march at an animated pace between the kitchen and the courtyard holding their signature pizzas high above the heads of red-lipped ladies and tipsy suits; quite the scene as the water feature peacefully warbles away in the background. Fiancé and I went for a quick bite on a school night recently and arrived to exactly this. We soaked in the scene like tourists in our own neighbourhood as we sank into cushy patio chairs in the crammed but breezy courtyard.
It's easy to get distracted by the entertainment (provided by the rosé-fed raucous) and forget that entering an Italian restaurant usually means a detour to carb city - a tad inconvenient for those in the crux of their summer squeeze regime. But there’s no boggy bolognese or yellow pizza in sight. In fact it’s the freshness that gives NSP an edge over the average Italian. Plenty of rucola (rocket) and tomato complement the richness of the traditional dishes. The variety of the menu is overwhelming (in a good way) - including an indulgent antipasti selection showcasing fine cured meats and Italian cheeses and the like, pizza, pasta, seafood and more.
I felt a bit fancy and ordered the Saltimbocca from the secondi section of the menu: the evening’s special of sliced lamb rump with a subtle sage stuffing wrapped in crispy prosciutto with beetroot, potato fan (okay, glorified potato crisps) and a garlic and truffle sauce with light red wine jus ($38.50). I enjoyed every bite of succulent lamb, cooked slightly more than I would have normally liked but the saltiness of the prosciutto permeating through the meat was something quite delectable, and still delicate despite the weight of the components. Fiancé went with the Quattro Stagioni ($26.50) which is a combination of four pizzas on the menu. Not just all the toppings banged on the base together but a (roughly partitioned) slice of each. Delicioso. We discussed and concurred how the pizza bases achieve the perfect medium: Spongy to the bite for that glorious euro bread-goodness; crisp on the bottom but not to the point of crumbling (or worse, burn wounds to the mouth).
The staff are generally Italian and all part of the package. Caught up in the buzz of the evening, our Leonardo poured me a glass of next door’s bottle of rosé by mistake. We both realized too late to recover, he gave me a cheeky wink and a guilty gesture to our none-the-wiser neighbours. As if to say, ‘it’s Christmas, enjoy’. Enjoy we did.