The grown-up version of your primary school Pizza Hut party shovelfests, Pizza Autentico is all-you-can-eat reimagined.
All-you-can-eat joints are quite literal in their guarantee of satisfaction. Their title promises to fill you up, with many a punter taking it upon themselves to shovel as many BBQ chicken wings, Hawaiian slices and marshmallow-laden chocolate mousse cups into their cake holes as humanly possible. But there's a certain lack of elegance to the whole thing, a shortcoming Pizza Autentico are attempting to rectify.
The grown-up version of your primary school Pizza Hut party shovelfests, Pizza Autentico is a reimagined all-you-can-eat concept lead by Bondi Social owner Hamilton Kings. Reminiscent of a big ol' family gathering, Pizza Autentico's vast stone slab table on the bottom floor seats around 25 people (groups of five or more are encouraged to head upstairs to the more familiar restaurant layout). Black-and-white photographs of ambiguously Italian scenes jostle for attention on the wall and the stony table heaves with bubbling conversation and ramekins of shaved parmesan (extra points for lack of grated parmesan from this reviewer).
But you came here to eat all you can possibly muster, so let's get into it. For $20 downstairs ($15 at lunch time, between noon and 2.30pm), Pizza Autentico serve up all you can stuff into your face for 90 minutes — all brought to you yum cha-style, via roaming waitstaff. Pretty damn cheap for some pretty good nosh, and the team use digestion timing to avoid being driven out of business. If you've got a group of over five people and want to stay longer, you can throw in an extra $10 and graze upstairs for two and a half hours (worth calling ahead though, the place gets packed on a busy night).
Circumnavigating with the latest offering the kitchen's cooked up, the staff plonk down marinated olives, olive tapenade and mini hot garlic breads to start. Then it's into the pizza and pasta. The staff serve directly to your plate with smallish tasting portions — no ordering necessary (except from the drinks list). They cook only what the waitstaff and kitchen see fit to feed the current sitting as they go, so there's limited waste (unlike the vats of vinegar-laden salad Sizzler throw out at the end of the day). Teaming up with Alexandria's Salts Meats Cheese for produce, the kitchen focuses on quality, not quantity (an unexpected revelation for an all-you-can-eat model).
Going for the Italian style of crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside, the pizza bases only stagger when loaded with cheese (definitely not a bad thing). With new pizzas trailing out of the kitchen every few minutes, you get to taste and sample from most of the menu. Worthy mentions go to the stripped back Partenopea (fresh tomato and basil), the Quattro Stagioni (proscuitto, olives, button mushrooms and artichokes) and your classic margherita. Pasta is super simple. While the orecchiette norma (eggplant and ricotta amongst a napoli sauce) was elegantly tasty, the penne arrabbiata could use a tiny pinch more chilli — as Pizza Autentico is frequented by families, this is probably deliberate.
Vegetarians are more than catered for, with half the menu without any meat at all. The only problem: timing. Every second offering will have a generous helping of prosciutto amongst the rocket. As a result you'll probably eat half the amount of your co-diners, so either load up on olives and garlic bread or order some sides to share — rocket and parmesan salad, Sicilian arancini, or everyone's favourite buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil combo (all $9 each).
Pacing yourself over the designated nomming time frame, you're going to need some hydration to keep you well in the game. Libations are moderately priced and almost solely Italian, with vino offerings from the likes of Tuscany, Venice and Sicily setting you back a reasonable $8-10 a glass ($34-60 a bottle). Peronis walk themselves out of the bar, with Italian brewskies Birra Moretti, Birra Menabrea and Birra Italia making your beer and pizza night a tad fancier.
Rolling in to Pizza Autentico is easier than rolling out. You don't stuff your face silly here, but nom just enough to make the all-you-can-eat experience well worth your dosh.
Image by Nikki To.
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