Vacanza has offered pizzerias in Surry Hills and Bronte for over a decade, ultimately leading to a cult following, serving up authentic Southern Italian-style pizzas where less is more.
Vacanza Pizzeria (Bronte) opened its doors in 2010 and just two years later Vacanza in the Hills followed. “Both restaurants have been attracting rave reviews from locals and critics for their authentic Southern classic Italian-style pizza”... and “they were voted in the top ten Pizzerias in the SMH Good Food Guide.”
With their highly praised antipasti, pasta and stone-baked dishes (for being fresh and packed with flavour), and their list of affordable Australian and Italian wine, Italian beers and classic cocktails, we wanted to see it for ourselves.
As we approached the Bronte venue that’s tucked away neatly on the main strip of Sydney’s beloved beach suburb, we felt an instant sense of adoration for the street-style interiors and overall vibe – a timeless, urban atmosphere sporting authenticity. The preparation is a performance for guests dining on the ground floor of the venue towards the front – nothing is shy or hidden. As we arrived, the amiable wait staff showed us to our table on the top floor – an intimate dining hall with the magnificent dusk sky unapologetically beaming through the windows.
“Vacanza, meaning ‘holiday’ in Italian, is the brain-child of owner Nick Gilbert, a self-confessed pizza fanatic whose passion led him to Southern Italy, where he spent his time learning the art of traditional pizza-making before returning to Sydney to open Vacanza Pizzeria.”
We decided to begin our dining experience with the “Sorrento” Gamberi pizza – a piquant fusion of San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte, marinated tiger prawns, cherry tomatoes and fresh chilli ($25.90). After hearing verbal applause from foodie friends who can’t recommend Vacanza’s pizzas enough, it was a no-brainer to sample one of their highly-commended baked dough dishes.
After just one bite of the simplistic-style pizza, we were instantly gratified. The ideal balance of seafood and chilli gave the dish a great kick to it, still attaining ultimate flavour. The airy crust was the perfect partnership with these tasty toppings – we genuinely couldn’t fault it, whatsoever. Meeting the high expectations we walked in with gave us both huge relief and utter contentment. When something like that happens – which is rare – it is a really special moment.
“Vacanza’s to-die-for handmade pizzas are of course the restaurant’s crowning glory, including cult favourite ‘Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente Diavola’, a mouth-watering combination of tomato, fior di latte, hot Calabrese salami, fresh chilli and olives. The traditional ‘Brandi Bufalina Margherita’ is Gilbert’s homage to his time spent in Southern Italy and the Il Capitano, a delicious mix of Swiss mushrooms, goats cheese, Italian sausage and truffle oil.”
Moving on from pizza, it was time to sample Italy’s other raved-about dish: pasta. We wondered, Is this going to be as good as the pizza? Is pizza the only hero of Vacanza? Our warm host listed the favourable pasta dishes, all sounding truly enticing. Feeling incredibly indecisive in making our choice, our host suddenly mentioned how their lasagna is said to be the best lasagna ever tried by many people who come here. So, with this new information holding such high standards (once again), we wanted to challenge the theory.
The lasagna al forno – Vacanza’s homemade traditional stone-baked lasagne with Australian grain-fed prime beef ($24) – was mind-blowing. In fact, at our table for two, this was the fan favourite – it beat the pizza. It’s buttery, creamy layers with crispy textures of wide, flat pasta was as aesthetically pleasing as it was appetizing. The ultimate food-porn. It was exciting to see how such a simple, common dish could be transformed into something so unique and ultimately quite memorable. It was the best lasagna I’ve personally ever tried.
Vacanza boasting a well-selected list of affordable Australian and Italian wine and imported Italian beers, we decided to pair our shared mains with a Carafe of Vermentino from Sardinia, Italy ($29). “Vermentino is a light-skinned wine grape variety, primarily found in Italian wine” – a great partner for heavier mains boasting bold flavours. Vermentino can be described as having a “delicate bouquet of white flowers, aromatic herbs and white peaches, but also with some mineral notes.” It was a lovely, subtle blend that effortlessly complimented our mains.
To end the evening on a sweet note, we shared the Affogato – an uncomplicated fusion of vanilla bean ice cream, espresso and liqueur ($13). It was a lighter choice of the desserts on offer, and easily the best choice after our well-bodied course of pizza and pasta. You can never go wrong with espresso and ice cream topped with a distilled, flavourful spirit. Utter perfection.
Vacanza is the ultimate dining spot for a casual night out – whether that’s a first date, with a group of close friends, or an intimate family dinner. With the reassurance of satisfying eats, great beverages and a relaxed yet social atmosphere, the pressure is off.
261 Bronte Road,Waverley NSW 2024.