Posts Tagged ‘Carlton’
Original post announcing the battle here. I’ve been apologizing a lot lately and I’ll apologize again. Reason for the supreme belatedness of this post is a combination of tech problems and being super busy. However we’re off and here goes.
The pizzerias reviewed for Heat 1 are:
1. D.O.C. (Carlton)
2. Barbagallo (CBD)
3. Bande a Part (North Carlton)
4. Pizza Meine Liebe (Northcote)
I apologize for photo quality, the dim lighting in these pizzerias did not agree with my Canon Ixus yet again.1. D.O.C. 295 Drummond St Carlton, 3053 urbanspoon foursquare
From the team behind Carlton Espresso, D.O.C. is all about authenticity: simple pizza, quality produce and bases, few toppings. The place is also a ‘mozzarella bar’ and features Australian-produced fior di latte and Italian-made mozzarella, as well as an excellent selection of cured meats (bresaola, prosciutto, speck, etc.)
We had a capricciosa nuova with tomato, mozarella, leg ham, mushroom, artichoke and olive. Those that frequent the normally terrible Lygon Street pizzerias (ie. Papa Ginos, Notturno, etc.) will be familiar with the capricciosa and although the ingredients look the same, this is of a far better standard. The ham is great quality, none of that weird curly shaved mystery meat type stuff and the mozarella is their beautiful fior di latte (not the shaved one you get in a plastic bag at Coles).
While the service at D.O.C. can sometimes be Roman-style arrogant, brisk and full of swagger, on this occasion we were well served and I have no complaints. Design is nothing to write home about: clean, Mediterranean, stone everywhere. I find the place to be somewhat cramped and somewhat noisy but these are small quibbles, the pizza speaks for itself.
Bonus: Their excellent antipasti, cured meat selections, cheese platters and desserts are also worth trying but, alas, this is a pizza review.
Pizza Taste: 9.
Everything Else: 7.2. Barbagallo Trattoria e Pizzeria
103 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne 3000 urbanspoon foursquare
The self-named new restaurant of Pietro Barbagallo, he of I Carusi (Brunswick East/St. Kilda) and L’Uccelino (Yarraville) fame has started his own joint and they definitely haven’t scrimped on the details. The place is all ostentatious marble, hard wood and the like. The loudness is definitely palpable, the noise basically bounces off the walls, and there are several tables with only stools, not a set-up I’d recommend for eating pizza and paying $20+ for it.
This place has a terrible reputation for service, but if I may disclose, the waitress was a friend of mine, so we got the attention we needed and I have no complaints. However, this may not be indicative of their usual service.
The pizzas don’t have names at Barbagallo but the one we ordered featured tomato, mozzarella, olives, salami cacciatore, olives and roasted peppers and it was pretty awesome. The olives, for example, tasted amazing (for some reason). The base could use some work, the pizza overall tasted a little blander than DOC and the salami failed to live up to DOC’s ham. Having said that, it was still a fantastic pizza and I’m splitting hairs… splitting hairs is something we expect to do a lot during this battle.
I’ve heard excellent things about their pasta too, and their calzoncino (with three types of chocolate: white, milk and dark) was delish. But… we’re all about the pizza here!
Pizza Taste: 8.
Everything Else: 7.3. Bande A Part 749 Nicholson St, Carlton North, 3068 urbanspoon foursquare
Bande A Part is an existential-themed pizza bar named after a Jean-Luc Godard film. As such, a number of menu items and some of the decor are to do with the them (including, for example, the Anna Karina pizza). Before building this list, I had never been to Pizza Meine Liebe (reviewed fourth in this post) and had no idea that Bande A Part was related to the famed Northcote pizza joint, but it appears that a relationship exists, given the similarity in some of the menu items and decor.
While I love existentialism and Godard, I’m not a big fan of Bande A Part. The pizzas that we had were fairly bland affairs, service was indifferent and the atmosphere of the place was cold, despite the best efforts of the decorators (which, by the way, didn’t go that great either, due to the cool 60s minimalist vibe). The biggest problem though, is the menu, which is high on concept and low on delivery and quality, the pizzas we tried were fairly lacklustre, especially when compared to their Italian counterparts rated above. The one pictured above is the Greek pizza (I forget the full name but it’s something suitably quirky) and was the better pizza that we tasted. The base was somewhat too chewy and the toppings too bland for my liking.
Pizza Rating: 5. Lacklustre when compared to the ones above but still preferred to most pizza around the city.
Everything Else: 5. Points for an interesting concept.
Northcote, 3070 urbanspoon foursquare
As mentioned above, the Northcote stalwart, PML, is also related to Bande A Part, a connection which I had no idea existed until I finally visited PML to do this review. If I had known that the poor quality at BaP would be somewhat repeated at PML then I might have struck one of them off the list but, alas, the pizza is eaten and the reviews are written.
Pizza Meine Liebe has quite a following in Northcote, this place has been around for quite some time and is very popular with the Northern Suburbs hipster set. I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about. The pizzas were decidedly better than their BaP counterparts but still nothing to really write home about. Let me be clear, the bar here is pretty high. If comparing both PML and BaP to Pizza Hut or your neighbourhood pizza joint then of course they’ll come out on top. But when compared to their Italian counterparts rated above, these funky anglo-run hipster joints just don’t stack up. Perhaps it’s a matter of taste but, hey, it’s my review!
I sampled three pizzas here this time, the Jett pictured above being the main one I had. I’m normally a fan of potato-based pizzas, especially when combined with taleggio cheese, but this was a bland affair, swathed in oil and I was sick of it around half way through.
The service and decor here was also much better executed than at Bande A Part. Our waitress was friendly, personable and attentive and the whole place seemed to fit together a lot better, eschewing warmth and comfort (albeit in a somewhat cramped fashion) while combining the elements of the decor well into a good package. Service-wise, I’m aware of the terrible reviews these guys get on urbanspoon and elsewhere but since service was great when I visited I can’t complain.
Note: PML is crazy busy so it’s advised to book for either 6pm or 8pm or take-away (Joe’s Shoe Store next door will have you with a pizza and serve you a pint to boot). Gluten-free bases and toppings are also available here.
Pizza Taste: 7. The pizza here is worth a try, in part to see what all the fuss is about and in part because it’s decent pizza but it just can’t compete with the Italians. Not for my money anyway.
Everything Else: 7.5. Not as loud as the Italians and with friendlier service, you don’t get the ‘authentic Italian atmosphere’ nor are you bathed in opulence but it’s an overall more pleasant place to visit.
So D.O.C. takes out the first heat, just pipping Barbagallo which also stands an excellent chance of making it through to the Final. Stay tuned for Heat 2!
Trotters adds further fuel to my theory that the block of Lygon Street between Faraday and Elgin is by far the best block and possibly the only part of Lygon Street actually worth going to (though there’s also the corner with Lazzat & Il Dolce Freddo).
I have always told visitors to Melbourne that Lygon Street is our Little Italy, and yeah, sure, it is. But the inference one draws from that is that there is good pasta and pizza to be had, right? Mostly, wrong. It is actually kind of difficult to get good Italian food on Lygon Street and for the uninitiated it can be a little like playing roulette. You walk past shopfront after shopfront, some with touts offering you free wine, some with heaps of people sitting outside, but you still have a 90% chance of getting a glorified La Porchetta pasta with the cheapest possible ingredients or a glorified Pizza Hut pizza, but smaller and with less taste. And don’t even get me started on the coffee.
Forgive me if I sound bitter, but I studied at Melbourne University (just next door) for six years. Six years of the pain and suffering of wandering up and down that street looking for something decent to eat and getting bitten. But no longer! Rejoice! There is Trotters! A place you can go and be certain that for $15-20 you will get a decent pasta.
Now Trotters is not the only good restaurant on Lygon Street, I for one rather enjoy Tiamo and D.O.C. for example, but, unlike D.O.C., it’s a Carlton stalwart and enjoys the history and the well-deserved status of being an institution, while, unlike Tiamo, not being stuffed full of tourists and other suburban types. Also, its pig mascot is cute.
Though I have been to Trotters for breakfast before (and can tell you that it’s good), my most recent trips have been mostly dinner (and therefore, pasta) related. Here’s the breakdown of what I tried in a recent sitting (and apologies for the lacklustre photos, my compact held up badly in the dim light).
First up, the linguini with pork and fennel meatballs in a tomato ragu ($16.20), this dish was decent. It wasn’t subtle, but then meatball pastas rarely are. The meatballs were fresh and on point, the fennel came through really nicely. The tomato ragu was heavy, possibly a little too heavy but I’m nitpicking. If you’re looking for a pasta that’s hearty, this one’s your choice. Just don’t expect anything ‘light’.
The risotto of chicken, mushroom and braised leek ($17.50) was probably the worst dish I’ve had at Trotters. Now, I’m going to be careful here, because risotto is one of those divisive dishes that everyone seems to have a (conflicting) opinion on. I believe that the rice and the broth are both equally important to risotto, however, I do not think a risotto should be so drowned in broth that it almost becomes congee. This is what the risotto at Trotters tasted like to me. Not a fan.
Next up, the linguini tossed with prawns, tomato and broccoli, chilli and garlic oil ($18.60), to me, this dish is one of the stars. It’s by far the most elegant dish I tried all evening, the sauce was delicately light but delivered enough flavour while still allowing the seafood to work its magic.
Now, Trotters also do some great burgers, which I didn’t have that night so I won’t describe them in detail but I do recommend you try them. However, my regular dish at Trotters is the Spaghetti Putanesca, in a sauce of Western Australian anchovies, lilyput capers, kalamata olives and a hint of chilli ($15.50). Putanesca is one of my all time faves for a few reasons. The first, and simplest, is that I love all the ingredients. Anchovies, olives, capers, chilli is a recipe for delicious. The second is that it’s not normally overly saucy, which is something I prefer to heavy pasta dishes smothered in either half a litre of creme fraiche or a napoli sauce that sits in your stomach for a week.
Now I’ll be honest, the putanesca is objectively probably not as good a dish as the seafood linguini above. I mean, it’s not perfect, for starters it’s very salty and at times can be overpowering, but it’s still one of the most consistently well executed ones I’ve had in Melbourne. The saltiness is pleasant because it is of the natural variety but for those of you with sodium problems, stay away.
Oh and, by the way, their desserts are also delicious. Try the sticky date pudding. The coffee, not so much, but it’s better than Brunetti.
Taste: 8/10. You can rely on Trotters for decent, well-priced pasta. Not perfect, but consistently reliable. There’s also great burgers and desserts. It all adds up to a pretty great menu (apart from that risotto, perhaps).
Authenticity: 7/10. We’re talking relatively here. It’s Italian owned and run, much like other restaurants in Lygon Street, however it has not sold its soul for money and a slice of tourist dollar. Ingredients aren’t cheap and effort is taken to stay true to Italian roots.
Value: 8/10. $15-20 for a pasta is pretty standard and this is definitely the higher quality end for that price range.
Ambience: 9/10. What I like best about how Trotters feels is the authenticity of the place. Nothing here is contrived, there’s history (since 1988, that’s over 20 years) and there’s love, and you can feel it within the tiny walls. Oh and, as I mentioned earlier, the pigs are cute.
Service: 7/10. Well, they do take their time at Trotters, which is normally ok because service is still polite, attentive and personal. But sometimes they do give the impression of being slightly understaffed, particularly when they get unexpectedly slammed (such as… on a Sunday night with a thunderstorm approaching, maybe?)
Overall: 8/10. A true Lygon Street institution that has never let me down.