the pizza protocols

  1. Only thin and crispy is acceptable. The thinner and crispier the better.
  2. Only tomato base is acceptable – no barbecue sauce or other unauthorised alternatives.
  3. Maximum four toppings allowed, in addition to tomato base and cheese.
  4. Cheese may be mozzarella or shredded cheddar/tasty cheese; caution should be exercised when selecting any other cheese options.
  5. Absolutely no fruit on pizzas.
  6. Absolutely no chicken on pizzas.
  7. Ham is acceptable; bacon is not. Nobody knows why.
  8. Pizza fusion (e.g. chicken tikka pizza, lamb shawarma pizza) is not acceptable under any circumstances.
  9. We acknowledge the existence of white pizzas, but choose not to endorse their use.

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That is all.

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cargo

55a New Quay Promenade 
Docklands

03 9670 0999

Whatever happened to Docklands? NewQuay is quieter and quieter these days. A handful of restaurants are closed down and the others never seem hugely full, even on weekends. And so it was with some trepidation that I headed down there to meet a friend for dinner on a Thursday evening.

The $13 charge in the pay-and-display car park was the first unwelcome surprise, quickly followed by the gale force wind that greeted me as I turned onto the promenade. NewQuay looks fantastic on paper: a waterside eating, drinking and entertainment precinct, with well-appointed apartments, street art and one or two nice hotels, but summer or winter it almost never appeals. I forge ahead stoutly, driven more by the prospect of some intellectual stimulation and a glass of wine than by anything approaching culinary excellence.

At six o’clock in the evening, Cargo has yet to heat up, literally and figuratively. I settle into a window seat and pull my jacket closed. A glass of Barossa shiraz helps to lift the gloom, and my friend and I get down to the serious business of catching up.

It’s not an enormous menu but we are both drawn to the pizzas. We go old-school with a capriciosa and a good old mushroom pizza. No smalls and larges here – they’re all the one size. There is a wood fired pizza oven here, but they don’t make a big deal of it.

The pizzas are served in less than ten minutes, both a generous dinner-plate size with a fair (perhaps overly generous?) sprinkling of Italian herbs. I had ordered mine well cooked, and it came just so: a little charred around the edges but on the whole sturdy enough to pick up by the slice without losing all the topping.

Not the most inspiring pizza I’ve ever had, but decent enough and a fair price. The anchovies on the capriciosa were not standard topping but added beautifully to the overall saltiness.

We watch the boats come and go on the water outside, and again I am stuck with the mystery that is NewQuay: it appears to have all the elements of a great locale, but somehow it ends up being less than the sum of its parts. And with car parking charges more than even the astronomical St. Kilda, there really doesn’t seem any reason to go there above all the other great entertainment spots around Melbourne.

Cargo on Urbanspoon

the alderman

134 Lygon St, Brunswick East
+61 3 9380 9003

If you ever wondered what the touristy end of Lygon Street used to be before it got all honky-tonk, wander north past Brunswick Road to Lygon Street in East Brunswick. There, custom furniture shops sit alongside funky hairdressers and neighbourhood bars flourish next door to old school social clubs.

Just north of the vibrant Brunswick Road – Edward Street precinct sits The Alderman, a quiet, unassuming place with a handful of tables and bar stools in the front bar and a scattering of seats through the back rooms. The dark wood panelling and simple bar area are inviting on a chilly late summer’s evening, when a deep purple shiraz seems more the order of the day than a cool gin and tonic.

I sit at a barstool by the window and watch the hipsters stroll by and roll by. I’ve just come from work and I feel deeply out of place in my corporate wear. Perhaps it’s not too late to pop next door to Rhubarb and get an interesting asymmetric bob or something?

The Alderman is mostly a modest drinking hole, but they serve a small list of snack-sized plates from the Sicilian place next door. A plate of salami sprinkled with EVOO looks tame enough, but there is a bite to the sausage that goes very well with my shiraz. The chickpea chips sound interesting, and out they come in an old-fashioned wooden bowl, perfect right-angled triangles of deep-fried loveliness drizzled with a tangy lemon mayonnaise.  We order seconds. I am not a huge lover of arancini: I think it’s because they are reminiscent of a Scotch egg and no amount of perfectly sculpted rice will ever trump a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and deep-fried. However this one is the nicest I’ve had in a while, and big enough for two to share.

There is a decent list of wines by the glass and the beer list is, I am told, a good one.  A pretty good place for a quiet drink alone, a catch-up with friends or a rainy afternoon with a mulled wine and a good book.

 

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The Alderman on Urbanspoon

valentino

Cnr James and Lake Streets, Northbridge, Perth
www.valentino.com.au

Another night in Perth, another half hour trawling the internet looking for decent pizza in the CBD. Perth is not a great place for food – not in the CBD without a car. If you can get out to Fremantle or even Leederville it’s not so bad, but central Perth is not spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out.

Northbridge is a good option for cheap and cheerful, and I picked Valentino’s at random because of their “woodfired pizza” sign outside. It was a lovely late-summer evening and the restaurant had all the bay windows open. Plenty of diners were eating outside but I opted for a quiet table inside.

Not sure what this place is like at the weekends – the website indicates it might be a bit of a party place – but on a Tuesday evening it was pretty tame. My vegetarian pizza was nice and thin with just the right amount of topping – not as well-cooked as I had asked for though. Service was pleasant but a little absent-minded: I think the manager was breaking a number of new staff in.

Total for a large pizza and two glasses of Barossa red was just under $38. Not bad value for Perth. Nothing life-changing but decent enough.

Valentino Cafe on Urbanspoon

>Ciuccio

>Shop 9 Salamanca Square Hobart
http://www.ciuccio.com.au/

It’s not often you get 28C in Hobart of an evening, especially this time of year. It is a lovely stroll down along the waterfront to Salamanca Place early on a Friday evening with the town coming alive, the tall ships moored alongside crowded seafood restaurants, the lights beginning to twinkle across the bay…. and a stinking cold.

Never mind.

Salamanca Place is buzzing. It appears you have to be male, under 35 and wearing a brand-logo teeshirt to get into Irish Murphy’s – or at least to be permitted drink a pint outside on the pavement. The Aurora Australia – the big red Antarctic survey vessel – is gone for the summer, the gap on the quay filled with gleaming white motor boats. Gangs of students congregate beneath the trees along Salamanca Place, drinking god knows what from polystyrene cups and otherwise being incredibly civilised.

I wander past the crowds outside Barcelona and James Squire. It’s amazing how the young Taswegian women take advantage of a rare balmy evening: most of those outfits would result in hypothermia on most other nights of the year.

Despite the warm evening I am convinced it cannot last. A friendly waitress Ciuccio finds me a table for one inside, tucked between a strangely-matched American couple and a more conventional Australian one. I settle in with a glass of d’Arenberg The Footbolt and my Kathy Reichs novel.

My cold battles with my appetite. Virtually nothing stops me eating as most of you will know, but for fifteen minutes I flick backwards and forwards between gourmet pizzas and a predictable but enticing list of pasta and primi dishes. I have been told the gamberi pizza is off tonight. Contrarily, it is the one thing I crave.

I settle for a rocket, pear and parmesan salad to start, and a prawn risotto to follow. In the end my choices are directed by what I can eat with one fork as I hold a large paperback in the other hand.

The rocket salad is huge but very well balanced. I jab forkfuls of ripe pear, slices of parmesan and rocket leaves drenched in a blue cheese dressing. Most of the walnuts are a casualty of my
clumsy forkmanship and get left behind. So far, so Friday night.

A second glass of The Footbolt heralds the arrival of my main course. I hadn’t thought the risotto would be tomato-based and I am immediately disappointed, but convenience triumphs over first impressions and I dig in.

The risotto is… fine. More than tasty. Rice pretty well perfectly cooked. Decent number of prawns. A good smattering of wilted spinach. It lasts me four chapters and I can’t complain.

The sights and aromas from other dishes passing by to other tables indicate that this is a decent place. I can only conclude that my cold has numbed my taste buds to the point where everything just tastes ordinary. Everybody else looks thrilled with their food.

My waitress hits just the right balance between pleasantries, eye contact and efficiency. Despite the growing queue at the bar waiting for tables, I never feel rushed. I wander back out into the warm air of the evening, and marvel at the people still dining outside on the square, apparently unaware of the latitude.

The fairy lights on the trees twinkle as I saunter back to my hotel and an early night. As I leave Salamanca Place, the first raindrops start to fall. By tomorrow morning it will be back to more normal Tasmanian spring weather, and we shall have to wait quite a few more weeks for another Friday night like this.

leftovers pizza

No, I don’t mean I had pizza last night and ate the last two slices this morning. As if, in my home, there would be any pizza left for breakfast.

Tonight, despite being Thursday, is the start of my weekend and I wanted Friday Food. (No Andy you do not have the copyright on this…). For the uninitiated, our Melbourne take on Friday food is that is has to be special, it has to be something you don’t normally eat on a school night, it has to be comfort food, it has to be something you like to end the week with but doesn’t take a Cordon Bleu chef to pull off.

I rode home from the city on the scooter in a strange high-temperature, high-humidity fog (really, is this still March?) and focused on pizza and red wine, my ultimate comfort food.

When I got home the Stanton and Killeen shiraz durif was hitting the spot and it was all I could do to call Pizza Hut – my favourite non-pizza pizza hit. (Let’s face it: Pizza Hut is not pizza but it is tasty). As it was March, the month of Slow Food, I focused hard and changed my mind. I would have home-made pizza with toppings made of all the leftovers in the fridge.

Two mini pita breads. Two teaspoons of tomato base from a tub (OK, it was not all slow food sourced from the land, but give me a break). A stray rasher of streaky bacon from a Paddy’s Butchers Sunday breakfast that just got too big. Some baby bocconcini from a weekend pasta dish, with about a week until sell-by date. Five cherry tomatoes and half an onion and a green chilli from the vegie drawer in the fridge. The heads off half a bunch of rapidly-failing broccolini. Spicy Italian herbs. All set.

Divine Thursday night dinner, nine points (Weight Watchers) instead of minimum 15 if I’d ordered in. OK, I would have ordered something meat-lovers and it would have been a train wreck – maybe 20 points which is more than I’m supposed to eat in a full day. But my dinner was a lot tastier and exactly to my taste.

And the fridge is a little emptier tonight because of me.

I thank you.