Phone: (09) 379 5358
Rating out of 10: Food: 7, Service: 7, Value: 7, Ambience: 8
Our stereotyped image of the Italian restaurant is bustle, informality, cheerful clamour and theatrical accents. In Non Solo Pizza you get all of these, which is presumably why it continues to fill its large premises with happy customers - and our midweek visit was no exception.
The food, too, is traditional in its approach and the menu is simply enormous. There are 10 sections to work your way through from the bread to the cheese. It may be non solo pizza but there are more than a dozen wood-fired examples of this standby, none departing too far from passably Italian varieties into the curry, roast turkey and cranberry specimens that disfigure the menu in some places.
We certainly required a drink over which to ponder our selection and there's plenty of choice in the wine and beverages lists with plenty of evidence around us that having a convivial glass or two is very much part of the scene here.
The roba fritta (fried stuff), partager (tasting plates), antipasto and pasta sections of the menu provided our first samples of the food with varying verdicts. The fried eggplant tossed with pomodorini, garlic, black olives, capers, basil and mint was given a warm welcome and I enjoyed the broccoli braised with garlic, anchovy, chilli, sultanas, pine nuts and breadcrumbs. The arancini rice balls filled with mozzarella and peas on a spicy tomato salsa were satisfactory, if routine, but there was disappointment over the carpaccio which looked lovely but was bland to the point of tasteless until the eater came across a small nugget of olive paste. The eggplant gnocchi had flavour but were a little leaden in texture.
When it came to the main dishes, my veal loin was tender and done to a nicely judged pink and the wrapping of prosciutto and sage and the accompanying tuna sauce and broad beans added zing.
The fish of the day was snapper done in the crispy skin style that suits this fish so well and the dominant fennel note in the salad worked well. The linguine tossed with yellow fin tuna, mussels, black olives, chilli, garlic and Italian parsley was another dish that earned the verdict of enjoyable without being a knockout.
Our final main was chargrilled tuna with cannellini salad, capsicum coulis and paprika butter which was a good combination, decently cooked, but which came in such a huge serving that fatigue and boredom set in before it was finished. This restaurant's food is not particularly cheap but it certainly all comes in generous portions and we all realised that going on to desserts or cheese was going to be a stretch too far, tempting though some of it looked.
To show willing we ordered just one cassata semi-freddo, which was rich with candied fruits and well calculated to please the sweet-toothed.
We ambled into the evening feeling more than heartily fed. Although it was busy we had been served efficiently, if a little mechanically, and feeling we had a hint of the flavour of its Italian prototypes. Like those originals, Non Solo Pizza is probably best enjoyed when the weather is benevolent but it's worth bearing in mind if you want to bring a reminder of Italian warmth to Auckland's winter.
Our meal: $352.50 for three first courses, two partager, four mains, a salad and one dessert. Plus eight glasses of wine.
Our wine: A good list with several examples from the related Poderi Crisci vineyards on Waiheke. Their 2011 Viburno cabernet merlot franc went down particularly well as did their 2013 rosé. Our Italian wines included a chianti, a soave and a good example of an Italian chardonnay in a 2011 Umbria Antinori Castello della Sala Bramito.
Verdict: A well-established, well-run and cheerful restaurant that knows exactly what it is doing to keep most customers happy on a night out. A good setting for the larger group, with enough variety to please everyone.