“The best pizza in America,” said Bon Appétit. “It’s just pizza,” said the man responsible for creating the crisp-but-chewy crusted, blister-edged discs that had pizza lovers queueing for hours at his tiny little Philadelphia shop, Pizzeria Beddia.
The truth? Lucky Sydney, you’re about to find out. Joe Beddia is in town right now and will be making the heavenly “pies” that pretty much everyone agrees are truly top-notch for just one week at Bondi Beach Public Bar, in a bespoke 60-seat pop-up pizzeria with custom wall art. (Melbourne pizza lovers, do not despair – you, too, are getting some legendary pizza. More on that in a minute.)
Bringing the magic here for just one week
Beddia opened his tiny Pizzaria Beddia in Fishtown 2013 with just two staff, including himself. Fans would line up from mid-afternoon to make sure they got one of only 40 pizzas that he made every night.
Among one of those in the queue one day was Australian sommelier James Hird, one of the key links in getting Beddia and his pizza magic popping up in Bondi.
“I went on a pilgrimage to Joe’s Fishtown pizzeria a few years ago after it started lighting up North American media channels,” says Hird. “I have been back a couple of times. We’ve shared a few beers at that Fishtown tavern and hoped one day he’d have time to get down to Oz.
“It’s absolutely amazing that he’s cooking his pies in Bondi!” Hird, the wine guru at Bondi Beach Public Bar (BBPB), tells SBS Food. Hird says eating at Pizzeria Beddia remains one of his greatest food memories.
No surprises, then, that Pizzeria Beddia was a must-visit when Viceland’s guide to great slices, The Pizza Show, visited Philadelphia. “It’s not about me, it’s not about you. It’s about the pizza,” Beddia tells Pizza Show host Frank Pinello, before serving up two pizzas that have Frank in raptures. (Watch the episode now on SBS On Demand.)
Beddia, who’s able to come to Australia because he’s on a hiatus – he closed his original shop in March, with a new, bigger location (this one has seats!) opening later this year – describes pizza as a “humble marriage of a few cheeses, a solid tomato sauce, and a well-fermented crust”. But as he explains in his book Pizza Camp (Thames & Hudson, $39.99) his understanding of how to make really good pizza – the sort that caused Bon Appétit’s Andrew Knowlton to make that declaration that it was the best in America, and to share Beddia’s comment that “it’s just f**ing pizza”, in response to suggestions that locals call him The Pizza Jesus, or the Jiro of Pizza) – took years. Early work in breweries led to jobs in restaurants, all the while making a lot of pizza at home.
And then he had a life-changing experience – eating at legendary Brooklyn pizzeria Di Fara (Melbourne, stand by - Di Fara is coming your way!), where Dom DeMarco has been making pizza since 1964. “I remember my first slice… the legend was true…it changed the way I look at pizza,” he writes in Pizza Camp.
So what can we expect on the menu in Sydney?
“Joe has landed and we are currently going through a range of the amazing local product we will use,” says BBPB executive chef Monty Koludrovic, who describes pizza as “my favourite food forever”. “He is committed to using all Australian product, as we do… so he needs to test out some different flours and cheeses to find what suits his style. This will form the menu of four pizzas to go along with some sides and antipasti that our team is working on to compliment the vibe.”
For just one week at Bondi Beach Public Bar, Beddia will serve pizzas in a bespoke 60-seat pizzeria made entirely of pizza boxes.
BBPB’s usual menu includes pizza (we’re fond of the Troppicciosa, their take on the humble ham & pineapple), but Beddia’s will be a different beast – not least because BBPB’s dual wood/gas oven will be full gas for the pop-up. Unlike many of the world’s acclaimed pizza gurus, who use wood-fired ovens, Beddia made the deliberate decision to go with a gas oven at his Philly pizzeria. Lower baking temperatures, he says, make for a crisper, more substantial crust than the wood-fired Neopolitan style.
While Koludrovic says he’s looking forward to getting in the kitchen with Beddia, someone else on the team is even more excited. “I will defo be getting my arms dusty, but our pizza lord is Ares Qubaja. He started The Dolphin with me, and now oversees our Bondi pie joints, BBPB and DaOrazio. He is super pumped!”
BBPB is taking limited bookings for the seven nights of the pop-up, which runs 6pm ’til sold out, this Sunday, July 22, through to Saturday July 28. If you don’t manage to snag a spot, there’ll be limited walk-in seats available each night. Beddia's pizza comes with a warning from the front-of-house staff: "Joe is making each pizza himself so please be patient".
The Di Fara pizza experience, Brooklyn style
Di Fara, started by Domenico “Dom” DeMarco more than 50 years ago, is an icon of the New York pizza scene. Frank Pinello calls DeMarco “the king of Brooklyn pizza” (catch Pinello’s visit to Di Fara in this episode of The Pizza Show). The lines can be long here too, as fans drop in for pizzas handcrafted by Dom and his children. His daughter, and right hand at the shop, Maggie DeMarco Mieles, is coming to Melbourne to share the Di Fara experience.
If you want to try some of New York’s best pizza, Brooklyn-style, get along to Harley & Rose on Friday July 27 and Saturday July 28. No bookings – it’s walk-in only, from 4.30pm on the Friday and 11.30 on the Saturday, for lunch and dinner. Grab a slice and go, or take a seat on a communal table. (There are also a few spaces left at a sit-down Di Fara dinner at Harley & Rose on Sunday 29 July).
“We hear Melburnians are just as passionate about their pizza as New Yorkers, so we’re excited to be teaming up with Harley & Rose and making our pizza in Australia for the first time ever,” DeMarco Mieles says.
We hear there will be a selection of Di Fara’s most popular orders being served up – including pizza by the square. DeMarco Mieles is apparently brining her square pans all the way from NYC!
Find more details of the Pizzeria Beddia pop-up here. Find information on the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival here. Watch seasons 1 and 2 of The Pizza Show now on SBS On Demand. Get recipes and more from the show here.