Melbourne, VIC 3000
What is a perfect pizza? Back when I was a young’un, I loved them with a thick, golden crust, piled high with cheese and every kind of meat. Basically a deep dish meat lovers pizza. Thankfully my taste has since become a little more refined, and if someone were to ask me what my ideal pizza is now (I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this), I would say that I love them with a thin base, puffy crust, and a conservative topping of ripe tomatoes, good mozzarella, and a handful of basil leaves. Meat optional, but it has to prosciutto or better.
+39 is the perfect place to indulge those gourmet pizza cravings. Awarded ‘Best Pizza of 2010’ by The Age, this small pizzeria has been bursting at the seams practically since the day it’s opened. But now that the hype has died down a bit, K and I visited for a quiet lunch right before I left for Malaysia.
The depths of the restaurant are dark and a bit claustrophobic, but the closer you are to the entrance, the more airy it becomes, until it is downright idyllic on the patio where we were seated. Our table was half inside, and half outside, perfect for people watching and catching the breeze. I loved the gorgeous, rustic wooden tables, complete with pepper grinders and faded salt shakers.
Remember how I described my perfect pizza? The Bufala ($16) matched that bill to a tee, and nothing could have stopped me from ordering it. Fluffy clouds of mozzarella and sweet-salty tomato salsa took center stage, augmented with fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of very good olive oil. This is simple pizza with nowhere to hide, and thankfully it didn’t need to, as all the flavours balanced out beautifully on the crispy, crepe-thin base. Even the crust was good; puffy and burnished in spots, with just a little extra salt to make it almost as good as the rest of the pizza.
Remember how K is male? Remember how guys like meat? So I wasn’t even surprised when he decided on the Salsiccia ($18), a modern caveman concoction of cheese, mushrooms, and sausages. For a gourmet pizza, this sure was heavy; enough to make the base floppy and soggy – not so good. But aside from that, we both enjoyed the coarse chunks of Italian Berkshire sausage and woody porcini mushroom, covered with creamy and pungent parmesan.
So is +39 (fun fact: it’s the international dialling code for Italy) good? It sure is. But is it worth the price, hype, and the high honour of pizza of the year? I’m not so sure about that. The pizzas are generous for their price, especially considering the quality of the ingredients used. There is a good selection of traditional pizzas, as well as some truly innovative ones. But I’ll admit I left feeling a little bit disappointed; the pizzas were just a wee bit heavy-handed to be spectacular, and they really need to sort out that soggy base problem.
Rating: 13.5/20 – calling Italy.