New Zealand's only New York-style pizza restaurant chain, Sal's, is taking the leap across the ditch.

The franchise company, which has 22 stores nationwide, is gearing up to open its first Australian restaurant in Melbourne later in the year.

It recently opened a store in East Auckland and will open another in Mt Eden in May. Another store each in Christchurch and Wellington are in the pipeline.

Sal's co-founder and general manager Nick Turner said the pizzeria chose Melbourne as its first Australian location as it had a local connection there.


"One of our franchisees in New Zealand, he's from Melbourne and he's also the master franchisee for the state of Victoria, and we felt that we had a good local partner and someone that really knows the market there," Turner said.

"We felt Melbourne was a slightly better fit for our first set up in Australia. Melbourne is a nice, dense city which I see has a few similarities with New Zealand, rather than Sydney, but we're excited about potential growth to New South Wales as well."

Expansion into the Australian state of Victoria had been an intention for a while, Turner said.

"There's huge amounts of growth [opportunity] in Australia, and bigger than in New Zealand."

In the last 12 months, Sal's has opened a total of nine stores in New Zealand.

While Sal's touts itself as authentic New York pizza made from ingredients imported from the US, there aren't actually any Sal's restaurants in America.

The brand is the brainchild of Salvatore Leo, who had a store in Queens, New York, but closed it down when he retired in 2010.

Turner and Leo's son Brian bought the same pizza recipe to New Zealand in 2009 and developed the intellectual property. There are currently no other Sal's restaurants anywhere else in the world.


More than 70 per cent of its franchisee stores are run by former employees.

Turner said the company did not view other fast-food brands as direct competition, and instead focused on making the best pizza in the category.

"We see ourselves in the premier quick-service or fast-casual space; we really believe we're working hard to be the best in that space ... and our main goal is to provide the best New York pizza in that space, and we don't have any direct competitors," he said.

Sal's currently has one store in Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Mt Maunganui, and 18 throughout Auckland.

"Our Wellington store has been received tremendously well on Cuba Street and our Christchurch store has been received very well, so there's growth in both of those markets," Turner said. "New Zealand is where we see primary growth in the next couple of years, even though we're excited about getting into Australia."

Sal's opened its first store on Auckland's Commerce Street in 2009, which later moved to Fort Street.