Queen Margherita of Savoy’s AVPN accreditation says as much about the Shire’s ever-improving food scene as it does about the quality of the product.
Cronulla’s Queen Margherita of Savoy has become the 10th Australian pizzeria to be certified by the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana.
As well as being the first AVPN-certified pizzeria in the Sutherland Shire, QMOS is just one of five accredited pizzerias in Sydney.
QMOS owner Lee Carroll, an eighth-generation Australian who grew up in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, says he received the news about his AVPN accreditation via email on the eve of the restaurant’s first anniversary on May 13, 2020, soon after the stroke of midnight.
Carroll says he fell in love with Neapolitan pizza after dining at Pizza Mario about a decade ago. Soon after, Lee’s wife Sharon bought him a wood-fired pizza oven for his birthday and his obsession with Neapolitan pizza began.
“I love the specialised, precise nature of Neapolitan pizza. I find it very rewarding to focus on one product and try to perfect that,” says Carroll, who participated in a three-week training course in Napoli in March 2013 and had to adhere to a very precise set of rules in order to receive accreditation from the association.
While in Italy, Carroll also gained experience working around the clock at a pizzeria in Naples.
As pizza purists in the know will tell you, accreditation from the AVPN is the stamp of approval that indicates that the pizzaiolo (person who makes pizza) is sticking to the rules when it comes to ‘due pizza-making processes’. The fact that this Australian chef travelled to Italy to learn how to make traditional Neapolitan pizza suggests how serious he was about complying with pizza protocol.
Say fior de latte
For non-Italians, this rigorous procedure may sound a bit over-the-top. But what it does ensure is that by adhering to the guidelines – which include a very precise method of manipulating the dough, to the cheese used in the preparation of pizza margherita, to the ingredients used to make the dough and the method of proving and then cooking the dough – the ancient traditions of ‘verace pizza Napoletana’ (true Italian pizza) are kept alive.
A passion for pizza
When Carroll is not busy sending white puffs of flour into the air beside the glittering wood-fired oven he purchased from Johnny Di Francesco (of 400 Gradi), he loves riffing about pizza, Italy, that oven and where his passion for good pizza began.
“I took one bite from a slice of pizza at Pizza Mario 10 years ago and it changed my life. I aspired to own a pizzeria ever since,” says the 40-year-old, who sports rock-star sleeves of tatts and earned his chef stripes working at local restaurants such as Sea Level and the Blue Parrot.
Red, white and green
Fast-forward 12 and a bit months since my first meeting with Lee and his wife Sharon – who manages the floor – and Queen Margherita of Savoy is on fire. Well the inside of the Stefano Ferrara Forni oven is, at least. The name of the pizzeria pays homage to the Queen consort of the Kingdom of Italy (1878 to 1900) during the reign of her husband, Umberto.
As legend has it, in 1889, Queen Margherita visited Naples and summoned the best pizza maker of the time, Raffaele Esposito, to prepare three pizzas for her. Her favourite pizza turned out to feature the red (tomatoes), green (basil) and white (cheese) colours of the Italian flag. When the queen asked Raffaele the name of the pizza, he said: “Margherita, in your honour.”
Carroll peddles an average of 150 pizzas per day. The wood-fired oven takes pride of place in the rustic, dimly lit dining room, which features a black-and-white chequered floor, copper tones and repurposed timber. The theatre of watching him is definitely part of the fun and it’s the sort of dining room where you expect noise and clatter.
Part of the rules surrounding accreditation includes the requirement to make a 40-minute video that followed Carroll step-by-step through the process of making pizza. He says earning accreditation was “recognition that what we are doing is being done with integrity and pride. It is a vote of confidence.”
As for the product itself, that interplay of fire and dough and tomatoes and cheese is consistently fabulous. The dough comes out with that high and fluffy edge that has the right kind of chew and char and is so soft and pliable you could stuff a duvet cover with it.
Carroll is not reinventing the wheel. But he has done much to shape local understanding about what constitutes an authentic Neapolitan pizza.
Highlights on the QMOS menu include the proscuitto cotto e funghi freschi (tomato, fior di latte, leg ham, mushrooms, garlic and parmigiano reggiano) from the pizze rosse section and the salsiccia e rapini (fior di latte, pork and fennel sausage and broccoli) from the pizze bianche.
Tell me where else you go in the Shire to find a slice of pizza heaven.
Queen Margherita of Savoy is located at Shop 9, 2-8 Surf Rd, Cronulla.
For bookings or to order takeway, phone 02 9527 4992. Open Mon-Sun 5pm till late.
This article has been updated since first appearing on Carla Grossetti’s blog.