More Than Dough, Avoja Celebrates Community & Craft In Manly’s Vibrant Heart

Eat, Sydney / 10 January 2024

Gather around wood-fired pizzas, share stories, and savour the magic of homemade Italian goodness.

Manly, with its sun-kissed beaches and relaxed vibes, has welcomed a newcomer to its culinary scene that promises to leave your taste buds dancing the tarantella. Avoja, nestled in the heart of this coastal haven is a labour of love born from Federico Zanellato’s lifelong devotion to the art of pizzaiolo.

For those familiar with Zanellato’s pedigree, the name rings a bell. He’s the driving force behind Lumi Dining, a two-hatted Pyrmont powerhouse, and Lode Pies, a bakery that redefined the humble pastry. Now, he sets his sights on the canvas of pizza, weaving his magic with flour, fire, and the finest Italian ingredients.

Stepping into Avoja is like stepping into a sun-drenched trattoria on the Amalfi Coast. The air is punctuated by the rhythmic slap of dough being stretched. Peach gingham tablecloths add a touch of whimsy, while vintage photographs of Italian icons like Sophia Loren and Luciano Pavarotti adorn the walls.

But the real star of the show is at the heart of the restaurant – the wood-fired oven, its flames licking at the sourdough crusts with a fiery embrace. Here, Zanellato and his co-pilot, pizza maestro Matteo Ernandes, orchestrate their delivery of Roman classics.

Avoja rewrites the script with a contemporary take on Neapolitan pizza. The key lies in the dough, a lighter masterpiece crafted with a 24-hour pre-ferment, stone-ground flour, and a higher hydration level. This translates to a crust that’s light and airy, with a satisfying chew and a subtle tang.

For purists, the classics haven’t been forgotten. The Margherita, a canvas of tomato, mozzarella, and basil, bursts with the simplicity of perfection. The Marinara, a celebration of Neapolitan heritage, sings with the sweetness of San Marzano tomatoes and the bite of garlic.

But for the adventurous palate, Avoja’s contemporary creations beckon. The yellow tomato pizza, adorned with pancetta, guanciale, and zucchini flowers, is a dance of colour and texture. The four-cheese, crowned with manchego, gorgonzola, smoked provolone, and ricotta, gets a playful kick from truffle honey and candied walnuts.

And lest you think pizza reigns supreme, Avoja offers a chorus of tempting share plates. Tuna crudo dances with nectarines and green chilli, Fremantle octopus whispers tales of the Mediterranean sea with preserved lemon and chickpeas, and heirloom tomatoes bask in the golden glow of olive oil.

The story of Avoja is one of community, of a chef returning to his roots and sharing his passion with the people he knows and loves. Zanellato envisioned a neighbourhood haven, a place where families could gather over plates of steaming pizza and laughter could mingle with the aroma of charred wood.

Avoja isn’t just a neighbourhood haven, it’s a love letter to pizza, written in flames and devoured with smiles. Come raise a glass (or a wood-fired shovel, if you’re feeling adventurous) to community, to passion, and to a culinary alchemy that turns flour, fire, and friendship into pure magic.