Melbourne is known as the culinary capital of Australia and while there are creative trends that set us apart from the rest of the states and territories (think ‘Freakshakes’), there are a few gastronomic specialties which we do better than anyone else. Melbourne, as a city, is proud of its Italian heritage. While the Italian precinct, Lygon St, is found right on the doorstep of the CBD, amazing Italian food is found all around Melbourne. Today we visit the eastern suburbs in an effort to pick out some of our favourite pizza restaurants, although it has been hard. All of the places mentioned are perfect for a night out with the family or friends, so why not impress those you love and treat them to a night on the pizzas!
A relatively new face on Abbotsford’s Johnston Street, Rita’s is a quaint diner filled with a few booths and lovely wooden tables and chairs. The smell from the open kitchen fills the small restaurant and tempts customers in off the street, there are no bookings so this happens often. Rita’s is the love child of three friends, one of whom owns the Lorne establishments Bottle of Milk and Pizza Pizza. The friendly and relaxed service, as well as amazing food, is consistent between the three.
The menu has an array of sharing starters like the braised oxtail salsa verde and antipasto platter as well as a number of pasta options. The pizza, however, is why you will often see the place packed out. In true Italian fashion the bases are consistently crispy and the toppings are freshly prepared to order, to ensure the taste is great. Half of the menu is simplistic, and what you see in the name is what you get (prawn pizza and 'The Meatball'). Others are a little more surprising and sound just as tasty, like the 'Salty Pig' (tomato, mozzarella, chilli, garlic, pancetta, capers, anchovies) or the 'Surf and Turf' (Garlic base, mozzarella, gruyere, chilli, prawns, pancetta). We can almost guarantee, though, the pizza you decide on, you will be happy with. Don’t forget to grab a beautiful house wine for only $7 to wash it all down!ritasabbotsford.com.au 239 Johnston Street, Abbotsford VIC
The authenticity of Circa900 is reflected in its name, which refers to the time period of 900AD, when pizza was first created in Naples. Circa900 prides itself on creating pizza exactly the way it was meant to be made, in the true Napoletana fashion. In fact, the restaurant holds the Verace Pizza Napoletana certificate, guaranteeing that they make the pizza the way it was made over 1000 years ago! The authentic touch doesn’t stop there — both chef/owners were raised in the Naples region and grew up learning this tradition from their elder family members. This along with fresh ingredients makes this pizzeria one of the best in Melbourne.
The menu is extensive, so, we suggest you keep it simple and try the 'Regina Margherita' (San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, parmigano and fresh basil) or go for the Circa900 special (white sauce base, buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, basil and olive oil). Although these classic pizzas might seem a little basic, it is the simplicity that holds the tradition of the restaurant and are sure to impress (also try the seafood pizza)!circa900.com.au 321 High Street, Kew
Small Print Pizza
Small Print Pizza is a great little restaurant with a heart. All menu items are made from the freshest ingredients, using every part. The produce is seasonal, local, free-range and exceedingly fresh. Once you have seen what they can do with ingredients sourced in the local area, you will ask yourself, why haven’t I come here before?
The menu has been thoughtfully created to minimise their environmental impact and maximize the experience of the customer. This theme is relevant throughout the store. The minimalistic design is truly breathtaking, and they really do deliver it in every aspect of their business. Even their website is minimal, sleek and designed beautifully (take a look by clicking the link below). The name itself speaks about their aim for the restaurant, Small Print comes from the term small eco-footprint. They aim to reduce their footprint by creating a closed loop for the store: minimise waste, compost, recycle, reuse, then give back.
Unlike other restaurants, their social conscious has not impacted on the quality of their food, in fact if anything, it has made their pizza that bit tastier. The menu, again, is simple. We definitely suggest heading in with family or friends so you can share several of the delicious pizzas on offer, as well as tasting some of the mouth-watering side dishes. The 'Jalapeno Poppers' and vegetable chips are crowd favs, but of course the pizza is the highlight. Step out of your comfort zone and try the kangaroos pizza or the beef (slowed cooked beef cheek ragu, radicchio, mozzarella and house smoked yogurt). We can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.smallprintpizza.com.au 388 High Street, Windsor
Nestled in Hamilton Street, Mont Albert, Cantina Centrale fits in perfectly with its surroundings. The restaurant is representative of the area it inhabits — a small family run restaurant that serves its local community of young families. Behind the humble red brick façade sits a restaurant warmed by a wood fire oven that sits at the centre of the space.
The menu has a heavy focus on their range of authentic Italian pizzas. Unlike other pizza bars that concentrate on a specific region of Italy for their inspiration, Cantina Centrale looks beyond a province and to Italy as a country for motivation. The pizzas are moderately priced and split between those with a tomato base and those with a white base. We recommend eating with friends so you can test a range of these delicious pizzas. Try the 'Santo Pasquele' (pork and fennel sausage, extra virgin olive oil, asiago, chilli and chicory on a white base) or the 'Nonna Nina' (fior di latte, which is a type of mozzarella, eggplant, garlic, basil, ricotta and parmigiano). As with most of the restaurants we have mentioned on this list, the whole menu is sure to be outstanding, so don’t be afraid to try something new!cantinacentrale.com 11 Hamilton Street, Mont Albert