Baby Pizza…

After being told it would be an hours’ wait for a table, we stood in the doorway deciding where to go instead.  You see, it was 9pm and we didn’t want to wait until 10pm for pizza.  As luck would have it, while we deliberated where to go next there must have been a cancellation as the maitre’d came barralling up to us and said there was a table available.  Baby Pizza had only been open 11 days, and it was clear that Chris Lucas’ latest restaurant was proving just as popular as it’s sister restaurant, Chin Chin.

Inhabiting the old space of Pearl on Church Street Richmond, Baby Pizza seems to be tapping into what Melbourne wants.  This no-bookings restaurant is another example of the trend in casual dining.  The days of fine dining, white table cloths and stuffy waiters are been taken over by restaurants where waiters are relaxed and friendly, and sharing of meals in encouraged.  Baby Pizza is on-trend in every way – fashionably and casually decked-out in neutral colours with the exception of a few neon signs here and there, timber tables with sunken baskets of cutlery and paper napkins enhance the casual feel.  A large bar dominates half the restaurant in which cured meats and cacti hang above the bar stools.  The open kitchen on display showcased the busy chefs at work (remaining surprisingly calm despite being less than two weeks in).

One side of the menu is devoted to pizzas (all under $20) and the other side covers pastas, meats, salads, sides and desserts.  Sticking with the name of the restaurant, we rightfully honed in on the pizzas.  The Salumi pizza with fior di latte, prosciutto cotto, spiced sausage, borgo hot salami, pancetta, oregano and san marzano tomatoes was the most dignified take on a ‘meat lovers’ I’ve ever had.  The quality of the meat and cheese made this pizza stand out.

The Fior di Zucca pizza with fior di latte, zucchini flowers, chilli, parmesan and fresh mint was made extra special with studs of salty anchovies.  The anchovies and the mint gave the pizza edge and this was easily my favourite on the night.

Always a sucker for pizzas with rocket, I ordered the San Daniele Prosciutto with fior di latte, parmigiano, san daniele dop prosciutto, rocket and san marzano tomatoes.  What is usually my favourite turned out to be rather bland in comparison to the delicious Salumi and Fior di Zucca.

All the pizzas were erring on the small side but made up for the lack of size with the fillingness of the dough.  Instead of having chewy yet crunchy crusts like the pizzas at Ladro in Melbourne, or Franco Manca and Pizza East in London, the bases at Baby Pizza were much more solid and almost ‘dampa’ like with very few of those big ‘air bubbles’ that I love.  The wine list has a heavy Italian influence with an impressive selection of cocktails also available.  The staff throughout the night were friendly, attentive and knowledgeable (not to mention, cool).

With the flurry of new pizza places opening in Melbourne, my bet is on Baby Pizza.  If the first 11 days of a restaurants life is anything to go by, it’s clear that Chris Lucas’ newest venture is here to stay.  If you’re willing to wait for a table, want to sample fresh and tasty pizza with other Melbourne foodie lovers, then get yourself down to Church Street Richmond.  Oh, and if you can’t get a table for lunch or dinner, they do breakfast from 7am.

Our meal with wine came to $100.

Dish Piglets’ Rating: 7.5/10

Baby Pizza
631-633 Church Street, Richmond
Tel:  (03) 9421 4599

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Just down Carter Lane…

A flat white please…

It’s always interesting to find a small quirky cafe near where you work. Just a few weeks ago, I discovered a tiny coffee house down Carter Lane. Right near Blackfriars and St Paul’s, you always find the usual chains like Starbucks etc. A refreshing change to see this little coffee house and one that makes me want to get a coffee in the morning. And for the people who know their coffee – they have a Synesso machine! Highly recommend this place!

*I had a take away coffee thus didn’t manage to take any shots of the coffee!

Carter Lane Coffee House
50 Carter Lane
EC4 London

A few bites of Croatia…

Croatian food is often overshadowed by the likes of Italian, Greek and Turkish food, but from my recent travels to the country I’ve learnt it certainly stands up to the neighbouring competition.  Nestled along the Adriatic, it was no surprise we regularly feasted on seafood. Just-caught seafood platters of octopus, mussels, calamari (often stuffed with cheese and ham), grilled fish, scampi and prawns were an unbeatable lunch after a long session at the beach.

The local dish, “buzzara”, consists of either prawns, mussels or scampi cooked in their shells with tomato, garlic, parsley and lemon juice. It’s a popular choice – but only if you’re willing to get messy and peel and peel for what feels like hours.  Don’t forget to wear a bib!

Another local dish to Croatia is cevapcici (try saying that after a few rakis!) which are skinless spicy sausages.

With Italy in such close proximity, it’s no wonder there’s a heavy Italian influence in Croatian cuisine. During my time in Croatia, I sampled countless tasty seafood pastas and risottos, but of special mention was the Dalmatian pasta.  Such a simple dish which I can’t wait to try out at home. Prosciutto and figs gently sautéed in olive oil, tossed with some al dente spaghetti and scattered with shavings of parmesan and chopped parsley. So simple, but so tasty. The sweet figs were a dream with the salty prosciutto.

Moving away from the grilled seafood and pastas is where I had my most memorable Croatian meal. We’d been sailing around Croatia for a week and our skippers suggested we try a great little restaurant/winery up in the hills of the island Vis, named Roki’s. We were collected from the port by the restaurant owner and embarked on a 20-minute drive along the dramatic coastline and up into the hills. Upon arriving at Roki’s we knew we were in for a treat.  There was no ordering necessary at this restaurant – instead the chefs had been preparing what was to be our dinner since early that morning. As we walked through the grounds of Roki’s we passed the outdoor kitchen and spotted what was to be our dinner – huge ceramic pots nestled on burning hot coals.

After selecting some of their homemade wines for the meal, we settled in for a feast under the beautiful trees outside. A giant local fish was so sweet and juicy it had everyone fighting for seconds (the name of the fish was Croatian and escapes me…). The rice, potatoes and carrots accompanying it were drenched in deliciously juices.

The chicken with aubergine and potatoes showcased slow cooking at it’s best.  So tender and succulent.

Last up was the huge octopus which barely managed to fit in the pot. Cooked for hours, its tenticles were tender and rich with not an ounce of chewiness. The richness of the juices melted into the rice, carrots and tomatoes making them taste fabulous too. What I love about this cooking was how unfussy and homestyle it was. No fancy ingredients, just slow cooking with top quality ingredients.