SOOT Magazine: Melbourne Pizza Festival

Published in Soot Magazine (1/7/13)

When the close of the Melbourne Pizza Festival promised world class, all-you-can-eat pizza made from local master pizzaoili (pizza-makers to you and me), hordes of hungry pizza lovers came to eat their share at the closing event, writes Kiara Pecenko

Pizza is an every-man food. Whether eaten as a crispy, wood-fired homage to tradition, a pool of Nutella or strawberries, or a greasy, three-day-old pizza-shop hangover cure, there is a slice for everyone.

The pizza showcased throughout the Melbourne Pizza Festival was definitely not greasy, was less than three minutes old and without pineapple, barbecue sauce – or anything else that a true Italian would scoff at – in sight. It was pizza you would expect to see in the Italian countryside, perhaps in someone’s nonna’s farmhouse, not in Fitzroy’s Rose Street Market. Good honest pizza, laden with Italian cheeses, mushrooms, pancetta, and a generous smear of sauce. Everything traditional, everything fresh, everything 100 per cent Italian.

I stood and watched the pizzaoili work their magic – kneading, twirling, sprinkling and firing those bad boys in the ovens. There were many born and bred Italians, as my nonna would say, “fresh off the boat”, and those others who claimed their heritage through their pizza-making skills. Some even were trained in traditional pizza-making in Naples – safe to say, I ate some pretty great pizza.

My highlights? Za-Za’s  potato, taleggio, and parmesan pizza with fior di latte, olive oil and cracked pepper was so damn cheesy and delicious I waited at least 45 minutes for seconds. Supermaxi chef Rita Macali, who made her pizza’s oblong in cheek to tradition, and because she said she was “allergic to round”, had me at gorgonzola. In her pizza, called “Strada Nova – a thin crisp crust with the strong blue cheese, pancetta, mozzarella, and olive oil – was by far my favourite. Sydney’s Sale e Pepe, pleased the crowd with their red onion, gorgonzola, tomato and pancetta pizza, which flew off the boards.

Unfortunately, such a young festival is bound to have some teething problems. Thank the pizza gods my nonna taught me the Italian swear vocab in my early years, so I managed to doge some very angry Italians. The venue was too cosy, and with no chairs or tables, the masses of hungry people had nowhere to sit and eat, therefore they were forced to congregate amongst those still waiting to get their hands on some food. The only choice was to suck it up, and wait to grab a slice. Believe me, the wait was worth it.

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