Hillz Pizza Bar
Updated: Jun 21, 2018
Interview with Daniel Murdocca.
When you’re in Italy and you think pizza, you think paired back subtlety. When you’re in New York and you think pizza, you think a slice of “pizza pie” packed with an abundance of toppings that you fold in half, jam into your gob and eat in about 30 seconds as you head down Bleecker Street.
When you’re in the Hills District and you think pizza, you think Murdocca. Daniel Murdocca.
Not long ago, it was announced with some enthusiasm on another Hills Facebook Community Group the re-emergence of Daniel into the Hills pizza scene. Now, the first rule of this Facebook Group is that you don’t talk about Facebook Group. The second rule of Facebook Group is that you don’t repeat who commented or what they said. So, with that in mind, I’ll paraphrase:
#1 Comment: Hey Yo! You know that guy who used to own Lamond Pizza in Winston Hills, he’s back!
#2 Comment: Oh, hey yo, that’s Danny. Daniel. Let me tell you something. That Daniel, he’s a stand up guy.
#3 Comment: Yo yo! Totally. Daniel made the best pizza going.
#4 Comment: Hey totally yo. Any other pizza place is just a fugazi.
#5 Comment: Forget about it!
(OK, I’m not sure why things just got all Donnie Brasco there, but we are talking pizza so it was probably appropriate for a minute).
Welcome back, Murdocca.
And yes, folks, the rumours are true. HILLS Pizza Bar opened its doors on 20 March. We stopped by to check out the impressive décor of this brand spanking new establishment and spoke to the man in the kitchen himself.
So, tell us about HILLZ Pizza Bar …
Daniel Murdocca: To be honest, I didn’t really even want to open another restaurant to begin with – I sold my old place at Lamond because I felt like I was done with it but, after three years, I started to miss the industry. Then the real estate manager for this property approached me with a really good deal that I couldn’t refuse, so I told my wife, Sarah that I was going to give it another crack.
Why would the real estate approach you specifically?
DM: The history of this site is that my brother-in-law’s father-in-law used to be the original business owner going back 25 or 30 years. He used to sell TV antennas and hi-fi and then he sold it to another family member and now we’ve lobbed in here.
So, what did you want to do different this time?
DM: I wanted to set up so that I could still have family time. Lamond was so busy and such long hours that it really burnt me out and I missed everything. I missed so much of my kids growing up. So, what we have here is just pizzas and minimal meals. Also, I want to be able to get home before my kids go to bed. Although, the meals will probably change and grow over time once we’ve got all of our staff and they’re all trained up.
Are you a delivery-only service?
At the moment, we are focusing on the delivery side of things, but there is some demand for dine-in. At first I wanted to discourage it but the more people have been asking, I’ve realised that maybe I should facilitate that. We have a few small tables, which people seem to like. Maybe by the summer time, we’ll look at more dine-in options – possibly have some tables outside. The landlord has promised to do up the property and make it look nicer, so I’ll probably wait until then.
Tell us about the menu.
DM: We’ve kept the menu pretty short and simple. We’ve modernised the ingredients – so more your pulled porks, your lambs and some fairly ‘out there’ options. But really, the menu is there to help anyone who needs an idea or can’t decide – we’ll make whatever anyone wants. We’re not licensed at the moment but once we start expanding the dine-in service, we will look to change that.
Check out the interior styling!
Where does this passion and ability come from?
DM: Growing up Italian in Doonside, I lived next door to my grandparents from a young age who influenced me and then when my parents split up we went with Mum to live with her mum and dad, and Mum’s mum was like a Masterchef. And living there, you had to help as well. She never stopped cooking and when I wasn’t helping I was watching what she was doing, so I learned at a very young age. My Mum and my sister are the same. Then when I was around 13 or 14 my best friend’s parents had a pizza shop and coming from an Italian family, I wasn’t allowed out, so the only way I was allowed out was to go and work there with my mate, Jimmy. And at 14 years old, he was running his Dad’s shop. I was happy to go there because it was like going out and I’d get a free pizza and so I got a job working there because I really liked it. It was then I first had the idea that I wanted to own my own place.
Jimmy and I opened our first pizza shop when we were 20 years old in Doonside. We didn’t last long together but we’re still best friends today. From there, I went to Lamond. It was originally a video shop and I started the pizza business there from scratch.
What have you been doing since you sold Lamond?
DM: A mate and I started Infernos in Bella Vista, which is more a Mediterranean, charcoal style of food. That wasn’t enough for me so I sold my half to my partner there and its still going now. Pizza is my forte – I’ve been doing it so long.
How do you get the word out about the business?
DM: There has been some word of mouth, but we’re also more interested in getting new faces in rather than necessarily trying to get Lamond’s clientele over here. To start with, we’ve done a pamphlet drop over a 13-suburb area where we deliver. We’ve got a presence on Facebook as well. How much promotion I do depends on the success of the business. There’s a lot of competition out there now – much more than there was years ago when I started Lamond.
There are obviously a lot of people who are happy you have started this new venture.
DM: We like to create an atmosphere that’s like going to the house of an Italian family, where they want to feed you and they want you to be comfortable. We want people to be comfortable and happy here, but importantly, if they leave here and they’re not happy with anything they’ve had to eat or the service, I want to know about it. I am happy to be told if anything was not to their liking and to do something to make it up to them like offer credit or send out a new pizza to solve the problem. We want people to feel comfortable here, which is one of the reasons I’ve brought with me a guy, Pete who’s been working with me for years. People love him because he’ll get out there and mingle with the customers, he’ll have a laugh and a bit of a cheeky joke. At the very least, it’s so important that we deliver a good service every time.
HILLZ Pizza Bar – Shop 5, 35 Monaro Street, Seven Hills North
02 9624 2713
So (yo), tell us: what’s your favourite Hills pizza place?