Lucio Pizzeria Zetland
A traditional Neapolitan pizza bar, with an aperitivo cocktail bar to boot.
"I'm lost already," said my partner about a minute after we'd turned left (or was it right?) past yet another steel cluster of hutches otherwise known as the residences of Zetland. Some minutes later, we entered a mall across the road from an Audi dealership and were seated inside the Zetland edition of the Darlinghurst legend Lucio Pizzeria.
Believe it or not, it's not (pure) snobbery that wonders how the cosy, brusque bustle of the Darlinghurst restaurant would translate here. The clientele are different. They are both younger and older than the Darlinghurst mob and also include the lunchtime business crowd (selling cars is hard work). It was good thinking then, on the part of owner/chef Lucio De Falco not to attempt a direct translation of his original Italian masterpiece but rather to reinterpret it. And that reinterpretation includes some fine additions that bring the food of the south of Italy to the fore.
Before I go any further, I will confirm that after sampling the 'Lucio' ($20), a half calzone half margherita combination, the famous pizza is here in all its silky, blistered glory.
But if I can tear you away from the pizza for even a moment, you must, I mean must try the lasagne ($22.50). Unlike its northern counterpart, this one has no bechamel, very little cheese and pulled beef instead of mince. It arrives with a prettily charred edge like a the lacy hem of a gypsy's skirt, a tomato sauce richer and more velvety than a cardinal's cloak, and silky sheets of handmade pasta that slip and slide with an unctuousness that is more satisfying than any bechamel.
Also wonderfully southern is the thoughtful selection of mozzarella and accompanying cured meats that make up the 'mozzarella bar' part of the menu. An excellent waiter isn't hesitant about recommending a burrata ($14) accompanied by prosciutto ($12.50). Good on him. The neat little white cloud of burrata that hails from the Caserta region of Campania gives out at the pull of a fork, breaking and tearing into sublimely subtle, milky wisps of cheese.
The southern beauty that closes is the Pastiera Napoletana ($12.50). A cake made of ricotta and cooked wheat grains, its flavour is made bright and warm with the addition of orange (not far off the spiced fruitiness of panettone) and a flaky shortbread base.
As we leave, we notice two young fellow diners heading home across the street, clutching their leftovers in a box. I look a little harder into the greys of the steel hutches and see the odd pot plant, soft toys suctioned to windows and curtains filtering the glow of bulbs. After a meal that so firmly referenced its home, even if it was eaten opposite a car dealership, such tiny signs are proof enough that no matter the place, home is where there is heart.