I must admit…


Things have been a little quiet on the blogging front. My Instagram account has been getting the most love lately with Boccaccio taking up the majority of my blogging time – though I hope to get back into some regularity, and what better place to begin than our journey to Lazerpig.

At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking this place churns out anything other than mixed grills and bar nuts in a glass – but step inside (Past the neon swine sign) and you’re immediately transported into retro-chic, complete with open fire and chequered table clothes. Lucky I wasn’t wearing my work shirt of the same pattern or the wait staff may have served the meal on my shoulders. On the topic of wait staff, therein lay my only real gripe with this place. The service was a bit too relaxed for me. 45 minutes a bit long to wait, but in the end it was worth it – read on.

We started with with another on our hit list – the wagyu cheeseburger. Plain and simple grass fed patty on brioche.

There are some instances where you can be let down by something so beautiful, but we knew when picking up this gorgeous slab of protein and taking in the smell, and the feel, we knew that it was going to be special. And it was. This burger was rich, creamy decadent and in perfect balance. We didn’t even add bacon or double down on the patties.

Guess who just stole #1 Burger of 2015? Yep, you betcha.

Feeling content, we realised these guys also do artisan Neapolitan pizzas. By that I mean they have their own sourdough culture, practise long fermentation (72 hours) and bake in a wood oven.

I was a bit skeptical with Neapolitan and 72 hours. This I’ve noticed always means the dough goes in the fridge. With sourdough culture, and such short bake times in the wood oven, this almost always results in a crust that can get gummy. 48 hours for me is the sweet spot, and while these crusts were still very light and malleable, they did suffer a little bit.

Nevertheless, having my own culture, I couldn’t leave without trying them – albeit with a little bit of trepidation. After all, could a place really do a good burger and pizza?


We were floored. The pizzaiolo, obviously skilled, had made such fantastic beautiful cornicione. They sat about an inch deep and the leopard-laden crust was testament to authentic sourdough. The salami and olives were superb.


We finished with a prosciutto – my personal go-to favourite. San Daniele and buffalo mozzarella married perfectly.

So Lazerpig for us was a serious winner. It’s a relaxed, cozy, and (in winter) perfectly homely with an open fire. Go for a pizza, go for a burger, or – if you are as hell set on obesity as we are – why not go for both?

9-11 Peel St, Collingwood



In an era where pizza popularity has exploded… Marinara

It is so refreshing to see  young Northcote entrepreneur Luca Guerra buck the trend of Neapolitan wood-fired pizza and instead re-imagine his favourite culinary stalwart; Gabriele Bonci and his iconic Pizzarium. The concept is glaringly simple. Where Neapolitan pizza prides itself on light dough, lightning cook times and minimalist ingredients, Lievita instead focuses on qwerky, contrasted, sometimes extreme ingredients with virtually no boundaries. The pizza is cooked in large slabs, cut to order and sold by weight. Ever looked at a menu at a pizzeria and loved at least 5 or 6 pizzas? This takes the depression out of choosing just one. boccaccioNEW (1) The dough, while still subjected to longer fermentations, bucks traditional white flour for integrale, flour that has been stone ground to retain the natural bran and germ that retains much of the essential fats, oils and minerals that flour was once known for. The cook times, circa 25 minutes allow the ciabatta-esque dough to develop a caramelisation and gives the denser dough a better chance for oven spring. FullSizeRender 2 The variations, of which there are literally hundreds, change seasonally. Opening in summertime, you can expect plenty of tomato, eggplant and zucchini along side all year round favourites like classic Caprese and potato. boccaccioNEW (6) The styles range from classic Crostata, where one main ingredient dominates, to ripieno where a host of them are sandwiched in between two layers of dough. The various combinations, Guerra muses, are “only limited by the imagination”. boccaccioNEW (9) Lievita officially opens in January 2015. In true Pizzarium style, there are no bookings, no large tables, and no roomy 200 seats. No, this is everything that encompasses pizza al taglio; cozy, romantic and social. Lievita 298 High St, Nortcote.

Lievita on Urbanspoon

Pizzarium, Roma

There are certain places…

photo 1That are institutions in the restaurant industry. Places like DOC in Melbourne, Da Michele in Naples,  Di Fara in New York City, and of course Pizzarium in Rome. Mind the walk (15 mins from Vatican City), mind the heat (August in Rome nudges 40c), mind the neighbourhood (ghetto) and mind the wait in line, because Pizzarium serves up some historic (the starter used is several hundred years old) pies.

photo 5Inside, a sort of hole-in-the-wall that sells pizza by the kilo and serves up a variety of pies from classics with barebones pomodorini to exotics such as ricotta and blueberries and everything inbetween. Also on the menu, various suppli and arancini can also be had. During our visit (The month of July), we learned Bonci will only serve vegetarian, a rare move for restaurants in Rome to show their support for local farmers.

Be prepared to wait if arriving on normal meal hours, because confining an armada of clientele into a place so small is never going to be efficient. Nevertheless, what makes Gabriele Bonci’s pizza so decadent is his ancient recipe for dough, which centres around burrato flour from antico mulino, the product of stone-grinding artisan methods.

photo 3Pizzas do vary wildly. In our visit, the menu was 100% vegetarian and pies such as this one with fresh ricotta e zucchini with a dash of lemon juice really satiated hungry appetites on such a stifling Rome day.

photo 2Others, such as boiled potato and a sharp cheese (Didn’t catch the sort) also impressed. What makes them so special? The dough, crisp on the outside, light and spongey in the centre, is not one you’re likely to find anywhere, let alone Rome which prides itself on its wafer crusts.

photo 4The arancini and suppli were a nice treat as well, obviously not their core competency but a fabulous accompaniment to what should be a scheduled visit on any Rome stop. If you want to learn the classic from the master, you can purchase his book, or check this out.


Via della Meloria, 43 Roma

Ristorante La Gattabuia, Roma

After 24 hours in the air…

photo 1We weren’t feeling too adventurous when it came to researching dinner. After meeting with my sister B, and her husband D, we decided to take the short cab from Centro Storico in Rome to Trastevere, what was one a hip and trendy spot for local diners to escape the tirade of tourists and eat Roman soul food with themselves.

La Gattabuia serves up such local classics, but with their antique wood burning ovens also serve out a variety of pizzas including their trademark Gattabuia which includes porcini and truffle, and other classics such as brocoletti and salsiccia.

photo 4I went for my standard when in Italy, Margherita con prosciutto crudo.

photo 3It was a pretty straightforward number for Rome, extra thin crust that flakes as you eat with a nice and conservative dose of toppings and a high char (Perhaps too high).

They also serve some local tap, and artisan beers.

photo 5It’s perhaps a shame that the area has fallen victim to a swell of tourists, as invariably the food will be taken down a notch as a result. Maybe its Anthony Bourdain’s constant ramblings on The Layover (Roma Sparita is also in Trastevere). The food, however, was good. Worth the trip if you’re keen to see the area… Although perhaps not so if you are looking for something extra special. Sorry for the lame phone pictures, after travelling for so long I left my camera in the hotel room!

Ristorante La Gattabuia
Via del Porto 1, Trastevere Roma

Verace Pizza Shootout, Napoli

With one night in Naples…

Pizzeria da MicheleAnd 3 top pizzerie to try which do you pick? Trick question, of course.. You go to all three. Yes, that’s what dedicated folks do. What better way to judge Naples’ triple threat than doing them consecutively and judging each Margherita on it’s merits. The results? Presented here in reverse order.

3. Pizzeria Sorbillo

Pizzeria SorbilloGood dough, decent enough sugo and good cheese with low-medium charring and good texture. I actually had this at number 2 but the other two in the group (A and M) voted it third. Place was the quietest of the three, and for good reason. Not worth the revisit.

Pizzeria Sorbillo
Via dei Tribunali, 32  80138 Naples, Italy

2. Pizzeria di Matteo

Pizzeria di MatteoLocated in a hustle+bustle part of town Matteo is a pizzeria come tempura bar of sorts – Pizzas sit along side fried eggplant, and arancini. The pizza selection was great, we chose two here, a Margherita classic and one with mozzarella di bufala. Charring medium-high, but dough crust still nice and malleable. Lost marks for too much cheese – by the time it hit the table you could attach a diving board to one end and jump in.

Pizzeria di Matteo
Via dei Tribunali, 94, 80138 Naples, Italy

1. Pizzeria da Michele

Pizzeria da MicheleHad this first and came in with a pretty high expectation of quality. Expected to queue for hours but walked straight in and got a table in 3 minutes. Pizzas were ordered with beer and arrived soon after. Doubts were soon quashed. Pizza without a doubt the best the world has to offer, and it’s credibility and fame absolutely justified. It’s no wonder locals queue here for hours on end, and with only two pizzas on offer you would wonder why i suppose..

rome 4The answer is simple. Verace Pizza Napoletana is supposed to be simple and Da Michele is the original. At 4 euro a pizza + 2 for a beer, the value puts it in another category entirely.

rome 5Pizzeria da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale, 1-3, 80139 Naples, Italy

Cantina Centrale

I’ve had the privilege

Of knowing Patrick Ciccaldo, of Cafe Bedda fame, for a number of years. It was there Patrick was one of the pioneers of single origin Italian food, which in this case was homestyle Sicilian fare. The food there has always been of such high and above all consistent quality, and prices were kept very reasonable. Wanting to branch out and diversify a little more, Cantina Centrale is the latest venture from Ciccaldo and business partner Hugo Diaz and sees the adoption of a more broader Italian offering. Here you might see the Sicilian based taccozzette one week replaced by orecchiette from Puglia the next.. Pizze aside (Although plans for pizza specials are in the pipeline), the food menu will change weekly, and the possibilities will be endless.

So what of the pizza? Well, it’s the cornerstone of the eatery and the reason you will be going there. The 400 degree wood oven churns out pies that are decadent, delicate and perfectly charred. Where these vary from your average are in the quality of the baking, ensuring a consistent cook that  dries the base evenly. Too many times I have had pizza that is soggy in the middle, but by holding the pizzas momentarily over the flames they are able to achieve the charring and remove the moisture which I have come to loathe.

Ciccio Pizza at Cantina Centrale

The Ciccio pizza was one of many that I tried on the night and was my favourite of the evening. The locally sourced smoked pancetta, olives, caramelised onions, fiery (and how original) cayenne, and parmigiano worked flawlessly.

Signor Hugo pizza at Cantina Centrale

Elsewhere, the Signor Hugo offers porcini mushrooms shipped over in their entirety (frozen, not dehydrated like most you’re used to) and married to gorgonzola and mozzarella finished with a lashing of extra virgin olive oil.

Cantina Centrale has only been open a week or so but is already hitting all the marks of another fine Pizza establishment in Melbourne. There are only a handful of true pizzeria that I would bother to recommend to my friends, and C.C. is definitely one of them. Book the table by the window.

Cantina Centrale
11 Hamilton St Mont Albert VIC 3127
Cantina Centrale on Urbanspoon

Il Pizzaiolo

If the last thing you thought…

Definition wallpaper to impress your friends lines an entire wall

Melbourne needed was another pizzeria, you’d be dead wrong. The latest entry from the all-hallowed Verace Pizza Napoletana Association (VPNA for short) sends well-established pizzaiolo Francesco Deni into Melbourne’s inner northern suburb of Thornbury, where authentic Neapolitan wood-fired pies are the order of the day. Officially opening next week, the methodology is simple: Strict 90 second cook times in the almost 500 degree stone oven allows a pizza to be constructed thin and crispy, with the sort of bubbled, charred crust that only this method can achieve.

The 485 degree Italian-built wood oven at Il Pizzaiolo

The menu, a tightly focused affair that eliminates  the irrelevance and instead draws your attention to the pizzas, obviously, and some antipasti and dessert at either end remind you of what it is you are there for. The pizzas? Well, with over 20 to select from there is sure to be one for you.

Authentic Neapolitan Pizza Margherita at Il Pizzaiolo

The stone oven was Naples built, and shipped over in its entirety – with handy wheels on the bottom so that when Frank eventually expands to keep up with demand, he can simply relocate it.

“Il Pizzaiolo” Frank Deni loads another pie in the oven

The pizzas range from classic rosso, to sauce-less bianco with each different type combining proven flavours to create pieces of art.

Pizza Pancetta at Il Pizzaiolo

Above, a simple tomato, cheese and pancetta pie omits the superfluous and instead delivers the delicious.

The pizza are dissected asymmetrically at Il Pizzaiolo

Asymmetric pizza’s are purposely cut to prove you don’t need to be a surgeon. Perfectly charred and risen crusts pay homage to the quality, highly secretive dough recipe.

While many establishments all claim the ‘Authentic Neapolitan Pizza’ credo, none quite do it with the degree of execution, the panache if you will, and of course the flair that ‘Frank’ brings to the table (pardon the pun). With over 2 decades of experience under his belt, including stints at the famed 400 Gradi in Carlton, I caught up with Frank ahead of the venue’s official opening to get the low-down on what he hopes to achieve with his new venture.

You’ve been in the pizza game for 22 years now. Why pizza?
“Due to a family breakup at a young age, my mother was left with very little money. She leased a store so that we could all have a job, eat and we learnt the industry as we went. This is where I discovered my passion for the creation of pizza.”

What do you think is the biggest mistake you see in a lot of restaurants with their pizza?
“Quantity, not quality. Too many restaurants try to load a pizza up with toppings in order to gain the most flavour possible. In actual case, if you use quality ingredients, less is best.”

What is your main goal for Il Pizzaiolo?
“To pass on the taste of the authentic ingredients while promoting my passion for making pizza.”

Il Pizzaiolo, without a shadow of doubt is Melbourne’s new king of Neapolitan pizza. It serves up the most decadent, flavoursome and authentic Italian pizzas that Melbourne has yet seen. The only negative is the small size of the operation, which just means you better get in before word gets out and the droves descend on it.

Pizza perfection at Il Pizzaiolo

Il Pizzaiolo opens October 2nd.

Il Pizzaiolo
163 Darebin Rd, Thornbury VIC 3071
Il Pizzaiolo on Urbanspoon

Italy Wrap-up


Hotel Armani, Milano

And 3 weeks of travel can pass you by in an instant. Throughout my life, I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel overseas at least once a year, sometimes several times. This trip was fantastic because my parents are to me not only my family, but my mentors, bosses, and a real inspiration that I continue to benchmark life in general through every single day. So the opportunity to go overseas with them together hasn’t happened in many years and in it I created memories which will live with me forever.

Myself, mum and dad outside the Bellagio in Las Vegas

We saw some pretty amazing places in such a short time. In just 3 weeks we covered Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Los Cabos Mexico, Dallas, Rome, Milan, Parma and finally Alba, Piemonte. As I have covered many places I visited in the Americas (The good ones, anyway) I thought I would use this post to share my photo stream of the final Italian leg of the journey. It must be said though that the Italian fare in the USA has to be up there in terms of what I have eaten. We are certainly blessed in Melbourne with the amount of multiculturalism that allows us to enjoy many international meals, but I was simply blown away at the calibre of meals we had whilst  touring.

Salumeria inside Cibus 2012, Parma

In Northern Italy this time however, whilst many of my meals were amazing it was tarnished somewhat by meals that were so ordinary it made me question how businesses thousands of miles away could be producing better results, and what honestly the chefs were thinking. And we are talking Michelin famed restaurants such as Savini in Milano that rates amongst one of the worst experiences in my life. However, I hung out with some great people:

Mother, Father, Myself, and Massimo Benevelli in the Elio Grasso cantina

Saw some interesting places:

Slow Food school in Pollenza

And ate some great meals. Here are the highlights:

Ristorante Sorra Lella, Roma:

Gnocchi all’amatriciana at Sorra Lella

Sniped this one out of the Michelin guide for Roma. One of the best, reasonably priced meals I have had in the minefield that is Roma. This one sits on the Isole Tiberina, about a 45 minute walk from the Spanish Steps.

Ristorante Piazza Repubblica, Milano:

Cotoletta alla Milanese at Ristorante Piazza Repubblica

Ate here a couple of years ago when I toured with my brother Anthony and was stranded due to the Volcano eruption. Had forgotten the name (Really tried to remember it too) but chanced upon it anyway. What a meal. The Cotoletta and Risotto alla Milanese are amongst the best in the city.

Trattoria Corrieri, Parma:

Tratorria Corrieri in Parma

This one came to me recommended. Was amazed at the sheer volume of pasta they were producing, even so late in the night. It was packed full of locals enjoying a simple pasta and a plate full of salumi. Simple is the operative word here. Yes, I enjoyed my meal and yes, it was very affordable (Around 6 euro a plate) – I wouldn’t call it mind-blowing but for a quick and easy pasta fix of the Parmigiana type it is one to visit.

Ristorante da Guido, Pollenza Piemonte

Ristorante da Guido, Pollenza

Ristorante da Guido, Pollenza

Tortelli con Barbera d’Alba

Capretto was my theme of Piemonte

Tiramisu is my dessert-favourite. This one was all class.

About a 15 minute drive from Alba, Guido was on my radar for a while, so we wasted no time dining here on our first night in Alba. We were lucky enough to be treated by our good friends and Barolo producers in Italy the Benevelli’s. They are among the loveliest people we have had the privilege of dealing with; real friends before business associates. The meal here was nothing short of breathtaking, and the wine cellar is one of the best your likely to see in Italy. There is so much selection and the wines are actually stored correctly unlike many restaurants in the country.

La Libera, Alba

’88 Cappellano Barolo at La Libera

Tortelli at La Libera

More Tiramisu at La Libera

La Libera sits nestled in the heart of Alba. Its a must-visit if you’re in town as the quality of food is consistent and excellent. Reserve well ahead as it is generally packed especially towards the tail-end of the week.

La Ciau del Tornavento, Treiso (CN):

The view from the balcony at La Ciau del Tornavento

Signature Tortelli on a birds nest at La Ciau del Tornavento

One of the highlight meals of the trip. This was a surprise visit; we were  taken there by another good friend Fabio Saracco whose moscato is regarded as one of the World’s best. As it was rather impromptu, not only were we under-dressed but also ill-prepared. I forgot my camera and regrettably couldn’t quite  capture  the essence of eating a top class meal on the edge of a hill at some of the highest altitudes in the area, deep in Nebbiolo country. Go here for lunch and bring a camera.

Per Bacco, La Morra:

Per Bacco features a wood oven and an authentic certified Pizzaiolo Napoletano

Pizza con Burrata Fresca at Per Bacco

Per Bacco came highly recommended after I asked Denise Benevelli where the best pizza is in all of Piemonte. A stroke of luck saw Jane Faulkner staying not 2 minutes away so we made a rather special occasion out of it for our last night in Italy. Special guests also included our Dolcetto producers Bruno and Irma Porro. I don’t always throw this around: But Per Bacco rates in my top 10 EVER pizzas; and let me tell you this; I reckon I’ve eaten tens of thousands in my time. Go to Piemonte, go to La Morra, and drink Barolo and eat authentic Napoli pizza until you explode.

Until next time folks.

Pizza ‘n Pintia

It’s Friday..

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.

Billecart Rose

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.  

Shaw Valley Buffalo Mozzarella is the best local cheese I have found.

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.

Pizza Margherita

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).

Pizza ai Funghi Porcini

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.

Mmm... Pizza.

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.

Nutella Pizza

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:

Pizza Dough

(Serves 4)

– 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.