Amid the constant change in the restaurant game, a handful of Wollongong eateries have stood the test of time. Take a fresh look at the enduring appeal of five of these restaurant stalwarts ...
NAPOLI PIZZA, SINCE 1971
Napoli stakes its claim to be the first - and longest-running - pizzeria in Wollongong, opening in 1971 in a Church Street location before moving to its present digs.
Competition arrived a few short months later in the form of Pizza Hut, and 48 years later it's one of dozens of pizza joints across the city.
But the little pizzeria on Burelli Street is still standing strong.
The secret to Napoli's longevity, according to owner Corey Santomaggio?
"We still pack it up - we're not skimpy," he says. "We put it on there, you know what I mean? You don't leave our pizza shop hungry.
"If you have the Meatarama at ours, there's no way you'll be eating again until the next day."
Corey started working at the restaurant in 1975, and when an opportunity arose in 1983 to buy into the business, he jumped at the chance.
Now the sole owner, Corey has adapted his menu over the years to meet his customers' evolving tastes.
"Back in the day, the Aussies wanted 'half-ham and pineapple, half-supreme - but please, no olives'," Corey says.
"Now they want heaps of olives, artichokes and anchovies.
"In the meats, we only sold schnitzel, T-bone, veal steak; now we have scallopini and more, and we have gluten-free, vegetarian and certified halal."
While Corey has lost curious diners to louder-hyped newcomers, he says it's only ever temporary.
"When new restaurants open, people went to try their things, but they come back.
"'It was okay, but it wasn't a Napoli pizza, they say'."
It's praise like this that keeps Corey motivated.
"When people say to me, 'It's the best pizza I've ever had', I don't want to retire. I still get a buzz when people say that to me. As long as I can keep doing it, I will."
66 Burelli Street, Wollongong
AMIGOS, SINCE 1973
In 2008, OwenLangton and his sister Deborah travelled to Mexico, toured the regions, befriended the man behind Don Julio Tequila and took cooking classes. They returned home to overhaul the menu and decor of their restaurant, proudly unveiling an authentic Mexican experience to customers.
"It backfired horribly," Owen says.
"People will go to Mexico, eat the food then come back here and say 'this isn't Mexican'. And no it isn't.
"But we tried traditional Spanish and it didn't sell - people didn't want it. They want their hunger and cravings satisfied."
If that means offering diners the decidedly non-Mexican Buffalo wings, he's happy to oblige.
After 24 years, Owen - now the sole owner - is done tinkering with the menu and has settled on what he describes as "more of a brand than a type".
Amigos no longer mentions 'Mexican' on its logo, and has embraced the slogan of "fun, fast, fresh".
"Amigos derives its heritage from Mexico," he says. "But at the moment we're not trying to be any one thing."
Instead, Owen is now focused on providing a consistent customer experience.
"I would love to offer this and that, but when you have groups of 30 people that want to be fed at the same time, the kitchen has to pump it out," he says.
"We have settled on this product. We can make sure everyone's happy."
With a second restaurant just opened in Shellharbour, Owen's formula is clearly a hit with his market - and he's exactly where he wants to be.
"I love the industry. I'm still here because I want to be. It's just want we do - it's what we love," he says.
116 Keira Street, Wollongong
FOOD WORLD GOURMET CAFE, SINCE 1994
There's a generation of Wollongong food lovers for whom Food World on Keira St was their introduction to a wider style of Chinese cuisine.
Beyond the Westernised lemon chicken and sweet and sour pork popularised Australia-wide, at Food World the slightly more adventurous could try fare from the Cantonese wonton noodle soup, to Szechuan favourites like Ma Po tofu, and the legendary Hai Nan chicken.
The super-low prices made it a student favourite, while the traditional recipes drew Asian Australians in.
The restaurant underwent a change of ownership in 2017, but the new co-owner Michael Li has kept on the same kitchen crew, and former owner Yen Phan continues to work at the restaurant as a part-time manager.
"We haven't changed a lot, we add dishes but our customers have their favourites so we can not cut any, we can only add on," Michael says.
"We have more than 182 dishes on the menu from different parts of China and with the many different combinations we have more than 500 to choose from."
Michael and co-owner Steve Di recently hired a chef from Sichuan, a province in southwest China and home of the spicy hotpot - to "bring something new to the people of Wollongong" - and is set to expand to Shellharbour.
157 Keira Street, Wollongong
MYLAN, SINCE 2001
The early noughties was a golden age for Vietnamese cuisine in Wollongong.
When Mylan opened on "the Bing Lee side" of Keira Street in 2001, just across the road from Monsoon and not far from Trang's Saigon noodle bar, Wollongong foodies were in heaven.
But nothing lasts forever, especially in the hospitality industry. Mylan co-owner Nam Huymh bought out Monsoon in 2008, before shutting it down and moving her restaurant into its premises.
Trang unexpectedly closed its doors early this year, leaving Mylan as the last of the famous Keira St trio standing. However, dozens of other eateries have popped up around it.
"Before there were less restaurants. Now there are more - good for customers, a problem for businesses," Mrs Nam says.
To stay in the game, Nam makes top service, tasty food and atmospheric, on-trend decor her priorities.
The menu has also evolved, mixing original dishes like Pho with fresh modern favourites such as the vermicelli salad, as well as gluten free and vegan dishes.
"Having quite a big range of food helps to attract the customers," Nam says. "That will be the way into the future."
Mrs Nam says she will keep running the restaurant until she's ready to retire.
"It's just my job, my life you know," she says.
"Originally we start work for a living and then I start working to look after my children, then I work for my retirement. But beside that I love the people."
193 Keira Street, Wollongong
NAM, SINCE 1988
Nothing ever changes at Nam - and that's just the way regulars like it.
Married couple Hung Phat Trinh and Thi Ngoc Thu Nguyen have been dishing up the same authentic Vietnamese eats since taking over the restaurant in 1993.
Thi still assembles the spring rolls by hand in the dining room each afternoon and lets the legendary beef soup Pho simmer overnight for maximum flavour.
"We only use family cooking, my wife the chef, and always do the same thing," Hung says.
He believes any shortcuts or surprises at this point in time would upset Nam's many devoted diners.
"Always we do the food the customers like, we don't want to change.
"Still up and down, up and down but in the end it's still the same, I don't worry. My wife love to cook so we stay here."
4 Kenny Street, Wollongong
Other Wollongong restaurant stalwarts:
- Centro (Italian)
- Pot of Gold (Mexican)
- The Lagoon (seafood)
- The Anchorage (seafood and more)
- The Harbourfront (seafood)
- Roppongi (Japanese)
- Jasmine Rice (Thai)
- Ha Long Bay (Vietnamese)
- Marco's (Italian)
- Il Mondo Del Caffe (Italian)
- Esen (kebabs)