The little corner shopfront on Pittwater Road in Manly that used to house a light-and-bright oyster bar has been transformed into a quaint-and-cosy pizza parlour that looks like it was ripped from the West Side Story set. Top marks all round for the kitschy vintage styling, from the red-and-white check tablecloths and sheer, lacy curtains, to a solid wall of framed black-and-white photos and amber water glasses on the table.
Eat like you’re in The Sopranos, lining up a serve of the weekly bruschetta (cherry tomatoes, ricotta, pickled onion, olives and parsley on our visit) to be chased swiftly by a plate of calamari rings, prawns and white bait shrouded in an almost translucent batter and fried until they reach that particular shade of fisherman’s basket gold. Everything on your plate falls within the yellow/beige colour chart, right down to the creamy rich aioli for dipping and a lemon wedge for some much needed acidic ballast.
Carby kicks continue apace with thick al dente spaghetti that’s part cacio e pepe and part carbonara, keeping the yolk but forgoing the porky bits to create an ultra-rich, cheesy plate of pasta. But the pizzas are why you should put this place high on your Manly hit list: they’re more fond of a pun than your average Christmas cracker (top honours for the Anchovio Banderas, Cheesus Christ and Gordon Hamsey).
The Margherita might be the globally accepted crown princess of vegetarian pies, but the Baracolli Obama is in the running, riffing on a classic rapini and sausage pizza, without the meat. They’ve swapped out the bitter greens for broccolini here, and added silverbeet for its vital, salty depth. Ricotta and fior di latte seal in the cream base, but this is no cheesy greens comfort order thanks to the tri-flavour snapback of garlic, brilliant splatters of red chilli paste (warm, not hot) and some judiciously applied lemon juice.
Wines by the glass are kept at budget-friendly prices; bottles are easy to access for under a 50; and there’s a self-service fridge for crafty brews. And since Manly has a reputation for loving a bit of a knees-up, it makes sense you can also get a cocktail mixed directly into a can of San Pellegrino soft drink – it’s house-party boozing given a classy upgrade with imported fizz.
The more common refrain from venues in such a staunchly beachy suburb runs to the tune of ‘Endless Summer’, but at Pocket Pizza they’re leaning into the idea that winter is always coming. They’ve made a place where you can go and weave a carb blanket out of New York-style pizza, pasta, and tiramisu that could withstand a Northern Hemisphere blizzard.