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Archive for the ‘Pizzablog’ Category

Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems…
Kate Bush, 1985

 

Now, where was I?

Oh yes. The hole that is winter, mid-year, mid-contract, mid-life terror-inertia, just opened up and swallowed me whole a little while ago. It was either write rubbish… or take a short break. So we ran away to a foreign land for a few weeks, then came home and I turned my brain off and slept in for a few more weeks, and now here we are and it’s spring.

The Berra seems determined to put on a proper spring, too, showering us with warm days and thunderstorms, lush overgrown lawns, rogue oak seedlings infesting naturestrips and battalions of magpies. 2009 is a great deal more fecund than last year.

Melbourne Cup Day, marked in the Berra as the universally reviled Family & Community Day public holiday (it’s in fact a day when families and the rest of the community just go down-the-coast) saw the Bald Man and me achieve a little local milestone: we finally climbed Mount Ainslie.

If you’re local, you won’t be fooled by the disingenuous use of “climb”. It’s actually a brisk walk up a hill that’s 842m high. Some people reputedly jog to the summit each morning, using the paved track from the rear of the War Memorial. But we started round the back end at the site of the old tip in North Ainslie, went up the fire trail, came down the more usual path and then walked back around to our starting point.

On the way up there were regular pauses because it was pretty warm, and steep. But on the way down the path was so tame, I actually jogged for short periods, maybe up to a km total. That’s the fastest I’ve moved my legs (and fat ol’ arse) in several years, so you’ll forgive me for being so pleased with myself over such a little thing.

The other milestone from this period is a d’ohmestic goddess one. You may have noticed that the pizza reviews have petered out; the taste tests and reviews were fun at first, but the exercise quickly became depressing. Thanks for your suggestions, but after a passable but pricey pizza at Il Covo, one average and two rubbish pizzas at Firestone, and a truly horrible experience at Pizza Arte*, I’ve given up and started to make my own.

A domestic oven and little kitchen notwithstanding, after about five attempts I’m making headway. Less is truly more with toppings – I recommend seasonal vegetable matter and smallgoods sourced from from the EPIC Farmers Market or your own garden.

But the base is definitely the key. I’m now working from a very old recipe that comes from a Good Weekend about a hundred years ago that I tore out, tucked away and fortuitously found again. Like toppings, less is probably more – this ace base uses little more than flour, olive oil and yeast. It works better now after a little modification, a result of trial and error. If you’re interested, the recipe’s on the other, sporadically updated blog i made you this. If you try it, give yourself at least three goes to get a feel for the dough (so to speak) – and let me know how it goes.

* I think we got Pizza Arte on a bad day – Victorians now call that day Black Saturday, and it felt at least 60 degrees in their kitchen – but really, the pizza was terrible. Burned and undercooked patches on one pizza, overcooked base and dry toppings that just fell off the other one. I don’t have words to describe how disgusting it was.

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Where: La Capanna, Kingston shops
Open: …?

When: Wednesday 28 January 2009, approx 6.30pm
What was ordered:
1 small foccacia (olive oil & rosemary pizza), $10
1 large pizza, half- delizioza (prosciutto, blue cheese, tomato, mozzarella) half-melanzane (eggplant, tomato, cheese), $23

lacapanna21La Capanna, as recommended by RossG, is a little Italian eatery located on the restaurant side of the Kingston shops. babelfish alleges “la capanna” means “the hut”. I must say I was struck by the decor, which could be described as rustic country bistro fed through an 80s style mangler: greenish stucco walls festooned with gay displays of faux bread loaves, plastic vegies and plastic plaited garlic, topped off with rope covered bottles. It earned points though for being comfortably air-conditioned on what was a very hot evening.

The waiter brought a carafe of chilled water without being asked, and indeed the service was a highlight. Waitstaff were efficient, pleasant, attentive without being in-yer-face, something you don’t take for granted in ONC. The restaurant did a steady trade of take away as we contemplated the menu. Family groups started to arrive for sit-down dinners; it’s obviously a child-friendly restaurant, (which is fine depending on the children – the ones at the next table were okay until the parents let them run about unchecked, making it very difficult for waiters to reach some tables including ours. Grrr.)

La Capanna offers 21 pizzas, a further 6 foccacia (pizza bread with two ingredients, no cheese or tomato base), 10 bruschetta, 16 pasta dishes, 4 fish dishes and 4 salads. That’s a LOT of choice for a small bistro. Thankfully, we were confining ourselves to one part of the menu.

The rosemary foccacia arrived in about 5 minutes, piping hot. The flavours were nice enough, though the Bald Man was quite disappointed at the lack of garlic (curiously the menu offers garlic bread, but no garlic foccacia). The pizza base, so prominent in a minimal item such as this, was of medium thickness, slightly underdone and a bit doughy. It had the texture and sort of fried look you sometimes see in mass-produced chain pizzas, but the flavour was okay.

lacapanna1The main pizza arrived shortly after, again piping hot. It was every man for himself. The toppings looked delicious, and were; I rate the eggplant topping better than that tried at Pizza Gusto. However, about halfway through our guzzling, the pace slowed. We were bogged down by that underdone, doughy, gluggy pizza base. Not just a minor flaw, it proved to be an Achilles’ heel in the dish: a real appetite retardant and unpleasantly fast filler for one’s digestive system.

It was at about this time my ears caught the muzak, and for the first time in my life I was exposed to a rendition of the Chicken Dance song in Italian. Even now, words fail me.

We limped across the finish line and plates cleared, departed bloated into the dusk.

Pros: inside dining with airconditioning plus outdoor tables; great pizza toppings; good service
Cons: that gluggy pizza base will always make us think twice before going again.

TBM comment: Meh.

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Where: Pizza Gusto, Red Hill shops
Open: Wednesday to Saturday evenings 6-9pm. Takeaway only, pickup only.
Self Described as: “Premium woodfired pizza, take away/al fresco”

When: Friday 16 January 2008, approx 2030
What was ordered:
1 pizza bianca (garlic pizza), large, $8
1 quattro gusti, large $17.50

In his desire for pizza nirvana, The Bald Man (TBM) has embarked on a quest: a quest for the perfect pizza. He accepts that his goal, like the pot at the end of the rainbow, may be forever out of his grasp, but he is nevertheless hopeful. Our occasional forays will be recorded in The Berra Circular.

Pizza Bianco, Red Hill Shops

Pizza Bianco, Red Hill Shops

Pizza Gusto, as recommended by kazari, is a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria in the efflu affluent embassy-suburb of Red Hill. Its dominant feature is the woodfired oven, an igloo-shaped brick oven at the rear of the open kitchen showing visible flames and kept stoked to a constant 350 degrees C.

It’s too far from our northside cottage to transport pizza for residential consumption, so we opted to dine at one of the limited, and very basic, outdoor settings. I wished I’d brought a cardy. And a bottle of wine, as the adjacent grocery and liquor shop closed at 8pm.

Pizza Gusto evidently practices the ‘less is more’ philosophy. The menu features 2 entree pizzas (garlic and pesto), 17 main pizzas (most with four or less toppings), three calzone, one dessert pizza (Italian chocolate spread) and an insalata verde. That’s it. Nothing else. The pizzas and calzone come in one size: large.

The pizza bianca was a good sign. It arrived in under 5 minutes, served on a lime green melamine dish. The base was a thin, airy, lightly savoury yeast dough finished to a lovely outer crispiness; the topping a light combo of finely crushed garlic, rosemary, flaked salt and olive oil. Yum.

We’d just finished inhaling this when the quattro gusti arrived. The standard quarters are all ‘single element’: tomato, mozzarella, and a quarter each of olive, mushroom, eggplant and calabrese salami.

the last of the quattro gusti

the last of the quattro gusti

Again served on a green melamine dish, the pizza looked just great. Unfortunately we fell upon it like ravenous dogs and did not remember to take a picture until there was just this pitiful half-slice left. So take our word for it, okay? It looked good.

TBM is not fond of olives, but nevertheless ate his slice and found it palatable. The olives were okay – Spanish black style but halved and juicy, not those terrible little black rubber tyres you get sometimes, and plentiful. The fresh, sliced mushrooms were a little undercooked, odd but not unacceptable. The eggplant had been pre-grilled and lightly marinated in vinegar before being cut into long strips for the pizza; TBM liked this quarter very much. And finally the thin slices of calabrese salami which had been liberally applied to the last quarter were tasty and packed a peppery punch.

The service was just right: run by 30- & 40- something Gen Xers, it was friendly, casual, complete with wry wit and smary general conversation. Very comfy.

Pizza Gusto isn’t the best place we’ve ever been to, but it was very good. The best we’ve had since leaving Slobart. Return visits are on the cards.

Pros: very good pizza base, fresh ingredients, quick and friendly service.
Cons: no decent eating area (outdoors is cold and draughty, Red Hil shops devoid of atmosphere). It’s a long way from home.

TBM comment: Orright.

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