COVER STORY

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

A pizza rev­o­lu­tion is tak­ing place as chefs de­liver more top­notch takes on fam­ily favourites.

Aus­tralians have a re­newed taste for pizza, with lead­ing chefs de­liv­er­ing

Keep it sim­ple. It has be­come a mantra for cook­ing, but never is it more true than when talk­ing pizza.And it’s the ap­proach taken by the lead­ing chefs who turn their hands to pizza as well as home cooks.

“Keep­ing pizza sim­ple is not only key to a great pizza, it’s also the rea­son there is so much in­ter­est both in restau­rants and at home for pizza again,” says chef Luke Pow­ell,co-owner of New­town pizza sen­sa­tion Bella Brutta.

The coun­try has gone pizza crazy. We queue up in droves for the best in town and we buy pizza ovens and search on­line for recipes more than ever be­fore.And it seems our taste for qual­ity pizza has grown as well.

“We al­ways felt all the pizza menus in Syd­ney were the same,” says Pow­ell, a for­mer head chef at Syd­ney fine-diner Tet­suya’s. “Places like Roberta’s in Brook­lyn do in­cred­i­ble pizza that fo­cuses on the dough, the best in­gre­di­ents and proves that a venue doesn’t have to be su­per-Ital­ian to be ex­cel­lent.”

Pow­ell’s piz­zas have beau­ti­fully sea­soned dough, charred crusts and top­pings of just a few in­gre­di­ents that de­liver big flavours.The likes of a clam pizza, for in­stance, with gar­lic, pars­ley, pecorino and chilli, and a pep­per­oni (the sausage from Pow­ell’s LP’s Qual­ity Meats) sprin­kled with fen­nel seeds are win­ning le­gions of fans.

Nick Stan­ton,co-owner of Mel­bourne’s Leonardo’s, be­lieves the new in­ter­est in pizza stems from skilled chefs turn­ing their fo­cus to ev­ery­day eats. “Some chefs with se­ri­ous credential­s are en­ter­ing the pizza mar­ket and bring­ing a new level of so­phis­ti­ca­tion, but keep­ing it real too,” says Stan­ton.

He makes thin, crisp New York-style piz­zas with Aus­traliana top­pings, such as a play on ham and pineap­ple with slow-cooked pork shoul­der, chipo­tle and pineap­ple. “Its cool to fo­cus on the Aus­tralian in­flu­ence be­cause we are Aus­tralian,” he says.“We still do less is more, but it’s im­por­tant to have fun too.”

Jake Smyth,co-owner of burger joint Mary’s,launched Mary’s Pizze­ria at the Lans­downe Ho­tel late last year and he agrees pun­ters want qual­ity rather than over-the-top top­pings.

“It’s an ap­proach­able way to get deep into il mondo ital­iano with­out com­mit­ting to be­ing a straight red-sauce joint,” says Smyth. “Qual­ity over quan­tity along with a lit­tle ad­ven­tur­ous ex­plo­ration of the clas­sic top­pings and style,” he says.

Mary’s Pizze­ria serves a New York­style pizza – thin with­out be­ing a “god­damn cracker” – and a Detroit-style square pizza, like a tongue-in-cheek ode to the 1980 Pizza Hut ex­pe­ri­ence. “A crunchy base, a lit­tle dough for com­fort and as much cheese and sauce as you can han­dle,” he says.

Neil Perry is a no­table mem­ber of the new pizza move­ment. His Rosetta al­ready had the big pizza oven spin­ning discs for the bar, but Perry wanted to up the city’s pizza game.“In the CBD there aren’t a lot of qual­ity pizza op­tions other than Mat­teo’s and Fratelli, so we saw a real op­por­tu­nity to give the city some beau­ti­ful piz­zas.”

At Rosetta the bases are made with a four-day sour­dough. “It’s just bread with top­ping on it – what’s all the fuss about?” jokes Perry. “But if you look af­ter your dough and get it into a hot oven, you get that bub­bly, puffy crust with burnt bits and a thin ve­neer of flavour from a great top­ping – it’s one of the best things you’ll ever eat.”

Casey Wall, chef and co-owner of Mel­bourne’s Cap­i­tano be­lieves the boom of qual­ity piz­zas stems from chefs’ ea­ger­ness to make food they them­selves want to eat. “Pizza is prob­a­bly the eas­i­est food to make at a ba­sic, ser­vice­able level. Peo­ple aren’t usu­ally of­fended by av­er­age pizza. On the other hand, mak­ing re­ally good pizza, re­ally con­sis­tently is one of the hard­est things I’ve ever done in a kitchen,” says Wall.

It’s a chal­lenge home cooks are will­ing to take on.Wall be­lieves the rise in mak­ing pizza at home is down to an in­creased in­ter­est in not only where our food comes from, but how it’s made.

“I think it’s sim­ply that peo­ple are be­com­ing more aware of food sys­tems and re­spect the ef­fort, more than con­ve­nience, in pre­par­ing food,” he says.

Perry agrees and sug­gests peo­ple not only want to know how to make things, they want to get their hands dirty and mas­ter it. “That whole idea of craft and con­nec­tion with food is im­por­tant and peo­ple are re­al­is­ing that,” he says.

“Putting work into your food, like knead­ing dough, is not only some­thing fun to do with the kids, it’s got that tac­tile na­ture that makes you re­ally feel like you’re cre­at­ing some­thing.”

Fam­i­lies are vi­tal to the suc­cess of Stan­ton’s busi­ness, he says, and their en­joy­ment is trans­lat­ing to an in­ter­est in mak­ing their own pizza.

“We open at 5.30pm and from then un­til 7.30pm it’s packed with fam­i­lies and the kids are ob­sessed with pizza,” he says. “And I think you give a kid the op­por­tu­nity to play with dough and make a pizza at home, they’re go­ing to dive right in.”

Pow­ell is a firm be­liever that the prece­dent you set in restau­rants helps nur­ture the stan­dards and in­ter­est one has at home. So if restau­rants make great pizza, soon enough peo­ple are go­ing to try their hand at home.

“Ev­ery­thing that hap­pens in a restau­rant trick­les down to the home,” he says. “Ar­ti­san sausages, mak­ing pasta, bread and now it’s pizza.

“And hon­estly, at home if you have kids it’s re­ally about the fun of mak­ing it. Even when the pizza is bad, it’s pretty good.” In­deed.

For pizza recipes by Luke Pow­ell head to de­li­cious.com.au.

PIZZA PER­FECT Bub­bly charred crusts and bold

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