It’s raining, it’s cold, it’s windy… Yep, it’s Melbourne. Nothing puts a downer on a night out quite like Melbourne’s uncanny ability to turn a somewhat serene day into the next Ice Age. The reality of working in food and drink is that invariably, the majority of your day is going to be spent thinking about your next meal. Especially on a Friday, where nothing caps off the week better than picking up my girlfriend and heading out into town to try somewhere new. I have a notepad in her bag, and whenever we think, drive, or read about somewhere new we jot it down so we don’t forget. I guess its a pledge of sorts. We are fortunate enough to live in such a diverse city that it would be a shame to not try and knock off as many different places as we can. I’m fortunate enough to have a girlfriend who is just as obsessed as I am.
Tonight, however, was different. Work was frantic with my brother Anthony overseas enjoying one his many days in Italy (Come to think of it, I think he was out having a steak) and for the life of me I could not gather any inspiration as to where to head. It came as no surprise then, when my father Tony suggested he dust off his rolling pin and bang out some pizzas.
Now, my dad isn’t any sort of culinary demigod; but neither does he profess to be. However, there is just something about his pizza that a) I have not been able to better at ANY of Melbourne’s many eateries, and I say that very confidently. and b) that gets people from all over town over for them. My immediate family ( My brothers often stop in even if it’s just to get a take away ), girlfriend, friends of mine and friends of his make the trip out because not only is he precise in his craftsmanship, but absolute in his ingredients. The thing about good pizza, and everyone will state the obviousness of what I’m about to say: Is definitely the quality of the ingredients. Yes, this is obvious, but don’t forget too many restaurants often forgo quality of the little things that make up a good pizza; and in the end this is their downfall.
Before any cooking is to commence, we capped off the week with one of Billecart’s Brut Rose NV. Great bead, creaminess through the palate with just the slightest nuances of yeast and natural acid.
I’ll definitely cop a bit of flak for what I’m about to say, but I am a firm believer in the fact that there is an absolute ingredient that is the achilles heel of all pizza making. One that should never be compromised now matter how grave the situation in your bank balance is. No matter how much you think you have spent on the sum of the rest of the parts.. The flour, mushrooms, ham, salami, potatoes or any other. They are all second fiddle to the mighty formaggio.
In recent times, the modern pizzerie in Melbourne have evolved to agree with my sentiments. Gone are the days a Margherita is simply mentioned as cheese, tomato and basil. Now, it’s not uncommon to see them drilled down to include phrases like San Marzano, Mozzarella di Bufala and in the case of prosciutto crudo, it’s almost always “… Di Parma DOP”.
See, the thing about cheese is; it is to the pizza what good quality glassware is to wine. It enhances the flavour of everything around it and you should always buy the best you can afford. In my case, we almost always use Shaw Valley ($7.99/100g). It’s a lot fresher than the frozen italian variants (Which I never seem to have any luck defrosting) and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
So, pizzas are rolled (Recipe at end of article), topped and placed onto a sheet of tin foil. His reasons for doing this is that in a conventional oven, you can achieve good distribution of heat if you line the base in foil prior to placing onto your pizza stone (A must for your oven). If for nothing else, it also makes it a hellavalot easier to negotiate into the oven. Just give the foil a light spray with olive oil prior to placing dough to avoid sticking. In terms of sauce, experiment to see what works best for your application. We are forever tinkering with ours, this time I went for a rather tangy variant Le Conserve della Nonna organic ($3.99 / 350g) which I thought was far to heavy on the oregano.
No pizza night is complete without at least one potato pizza. Tonight we went with a combination of Asiago Food funghi ai porcini (Porcini Mushrooms $4.99 / 10g), potatoes and a healthy drizzle of white truffle oil from Ceruti ($11.99 / 60ml).
Into the oven they go at the most thunderous temperature your oven will allow – and about 5-6 minutes later they should be ready to rock.
And that’s all there is to it. Pair with your wine of the night and enjoy. Tonight, I went with a Pintia 2006 Toro. I’ve been getting into many a Toro lately; with particular success from a cracker of a wine from Cosecha Imports for just $19.99 ( Matsu).
Tonight however I wanted something a little more premium, and have often been told by one of my good customers that Pintia 2006 ($99.99) is one of his favourites. Fearing that it would be all oak like some of the other high end young spaniards I have ingested lately (Alion 2006 of note) I gave it an hour of air was very pleasantly surprised. Yes, the oak is still very forward on the wine but it did nothing to compromise the intense pencil shaving, old cigar box, forest floor and concentrated wild blackberries. This is such a nicely packaged wine with all the markings of a long successful cellar life.
We finished off with a delightful Nutella calzoncino that we always cook medium rare, right when you are finishing your dinner (Cold it loses all its texture) – Dust with icing sugar and serve with caffè.
Tony’s Pizza Recipe:
– 400g flour
– 70g semolina
– 7g dried yeast (1 sachet)
– 10g salt
– Olive Oil (to suit)
Knead it, give a little time to rise and get cracking.