Tag Archives: Pizza

Neverfail pizza dough

I don’t have Mamma Rosa’s knack for making pizza dough. She does it by look and feel, and it always results in light, tasty dough. Me, I’ve had to resort to recipe books, and I’ve tried several over the years.  But this recipe from The Italian Baker by Carol Field consistently produces a great result. This wonderful book (thanks to Francesca from Almost Italian who put me onto it) first published in 1985 and since updated, is meticulous in its detail, the result of years of travel and research in Italy. For pretty much every recipe, she gives you the method whether you are making it by hand, with a stand mixer, or with a food processor. Below is the pizza dough method for a stand mixer (I love the dough hook of my KitchenAid, use it all the time), and I have doubled the original quantities in the book. This will give you 4-5 family sized pizzas, depending on how thick you like your base to be.

10g dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
640g tepid water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1kg plain flour
15g salt

Making it
1. In your stand mixer bowl, stir the yeast, sugar and water and let stand for 5 or so minutes until foamy. Add the oil and stir with the paddle attachment to combine
2. Mix the flour and the salt and then add to the yeast mixture. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until just combined
3. Change to dough hook and knead until soft and satiny for 3-5 minutes. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes – 1 hour.

4. Divide your dough according to how many pizza trays you are using, and grease the pizza trays with olive oil. You can use a rolling pin to shape your pizzas, but I find this dough very pliable, so I stretch it gently on the trays by hand. Leave in the trays to rise for 25-30 minutes. Then top as desired.
5. Preheat oven to 230 degrees Celsius and cook for 20-25 minutes until crust is golden (I always check if the base is cooked by lifting it slightly from the tray and looking at the colour underneath).

Neverfail tomato pizza sauce
A friend of mine is a pizzaiolo in Italy, and when he was in Australia some years back he told me you should never cook your tomato sauce for your pizza. I also went to a pizza class with a chef John Lanzafame who had won a prize at the world pizza titles one year, and he said the same thing. For several years now I have used this sauce for my pizzas – it takes 30 seconds to make and works beautifully.

1 can peeled tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon oregano flakes

Combine the above ingredients, blitz with a stick blender. That’s it. Spread over your pizza bases.  This makes plenty of sauce for the dough quantity above.  In Summer,  you could also use fresh very ripe tomatoes that have been peeled and had seeds removed.

Two favourite pizza toppings in our house – a very simple bocconcini & basil, and mushroom. Buon appetito!



Sud, Concord

It’s no secret that Italy has been in some fairly dire economic circumstances in recent years. This has meant there has been an exodus of its young, highly educated workforce. I was surprised to find on a trip to our Hong Kong office last year a cluster of people from Milan and Rome – extremely talented, they couldn’t be in an environment more different from home (“have you seen the price of prosciutto here!” one of them said to me), but necessity has meant they had to leave it behind and find employment elsewhere.

Australia has also been the beneficiary of this exodus, particularly in hospitality and food. Attracted by our climate – which is not that dissimilar to Southern Italy – our great produce, and an existing large Italian population (they’re bound to find a long lost relative or a cousin somewhere), we’ve seen some very talented Italian chefs, pizzaioli and gelato makers arrive on our shores. Paolo Gatto is one of those. He and his wife Rita arrived in Australia in 2008, and opened Gatto Matto in 2011. It has gotten better and better since my first visit, driven by Paolo’s passion (the name Crazy Cat is no coincidence) and Rita’s warmth. They have now opened a second venue, Sud, which simply means South. Southern Italian street food is the order of the day – it is where they are from, and it is the food close to their heart.

We arrive relatively early but within half an hour the place is buzzing, pretty good just one week after opening. While I sip my Bellini we peruse the menu, which is charmingly smattered with Sicilian dialect, and debate what to order – over-ordering would be very easy here because there is plenty to tempt. Fortunately most dishes are for sharing so we get to try quite a bit, though I see plenty of other dishes emerging from the kitchen, including a fabulous large antipasto platter for a big group, that we will have to try next time. The pizza bases are excellent and so are the toppings. But one of the favourites of the night is the baby octopus that comes with the spiedinu. I find out that it has undergone six hours of confit – if that’s Sicilian street food, unemployment be damned, I’m moving there; the rosemary flavoured wedges that accompany it are delicious too. The trofie cu sugu is also another winner (if it is nonna’s recipe as it says on the menu then to be expected), a fragrant, rich, robust meat sauce.

We are wondering what to order for dessert and aren’t convinced when the raviolo di ricotta is suggested to us, but decide to give it a whirl and we love it. It is a giant raviolio which can easily serve 4, and I’m glad the honey is on the side because I don’t think this light dough with a gorgeous creamy filling needs any further embellishment. The cuzzoli, light ribbons of dough to be dipped in the accompanying Nutella, are a crowd pleaser, but anything with Nutella always will be.

With generous serves, great flavour, and an attractive price point – the most expensive menu item is $28 – you’ll find a great little slice of Southern Italy in downtown Concord.

Arancini – deep fried rice balls filled with ragu and peas
sud (11)

Panzerotti fritti – fried calzone filled with mozzarella and ham
sud (8)sud (13)

Calamari and chips
sud (10)

Pizza Margherita
sud (5)

Pizza vegeteriana – fiordilatte mozzarella, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini and truffle oil
sud (9)

Pizza Italiana – fiordilatter mozzarella, prosciutto, rocket, cherry tomatoes, parmesan
sud (7)

Trofie cu sugu
sud (4)

Spiedinu di pisci – prawn and swordfish skewer with baby octopus, salad and potato wedges
sud (12)

Raviolo di ricotta – sweet ravioli stuffed with candied fruits
sud (15)

sud (16)

sud (2)sud (1)sud (17)sud (14)sud (3)sud (6)

Sud, 10 Cabarita Road, Concord Ph (02) 9739 6120

Sud on Urbanspoon

Coogee Pavilion, Coogee

pavillion (8)

The Merivale group should offer marketing or business courses, or something.  Like them or loathe them, you’ve got to hand it to them – their ability to take a space, transform it, attract good chefs and instantly draw a huge crowd – and sustain it long term – is enviable.  I’ve been to plenty of their venues – sushi e, Felix, Papi Chulo, Lorraine’s, Palings, Mr Wong just to name a few, and have, for the most part, had great experiences.

Coogee Pavilion is a relatively recent addition to the family.  Like its older siblings it has been transformed into a wonderful space – this time the approach is bright and breezy, perfect for a beachside venue. There is plenty to catch your attention, various counters everywhere, and I love the fact that the tables are nice and spaced out and you don’t have to sit on top of your dining neighbour.

pavillion (9)pavillion (10)pavillion (1)pavillion (2)pavillion (3)pavillion (4)pavillion (5)

And the food? Its pretty solid. There’s fresh seafood, pizza, steaks, salads, burgers. If you go all fresh seafood it can be quite expensive, but for a low key pizza and burger its not too bad at all. Its not food that is going to blow your mind, but accessible, pleasant fare for a relaxed meal. Note that it does come from each individual counter so can arrive very quickly – if you want them to space it out let them know.  Otherwise you’ll find your oysters arriving with your pizza and fish and chips.


And the place is incredibly family friendly. There are high chairs, so cute small people like this one can be comfortable.
pavillion (7)

Kids meals are $12.50 and under; the only annoyance of the day was that we had to chase down our kids’ steak repeatedly – it took 45 minutes – but given that the kids were thoroughly entertained they didn’t drive us mad. There is an awesome sizeable room at the back with table tennis, climbing walls, scrabble and a giant connect four among other things. The kids were very happy to run off and play while we sat and chatted and enjoyed our meal. If you want to avoid all that, head up to the rooftop bar which is over 18’s only.


Coogee Pavilion, 169 Dolphin St, Coogee, Ph 02 9240 3000
Coogee Pavilion on Urbanspoon

Mercato e Cucina, Gladesville


It was a bad day when Vanessa Martin closed the one hatted Il Piave on Darling Street – her pasta dishes were always right up there.  Its been a long time between drinks, but finally here she is again running the show at Mercato e Cucina, where one side operates as a “mercato” where you can buy fruit and vegetables, meat, charcuterie, pasta, olive oil, and the other side as the “cucina” where you can enjoy a quick pizza or a long and leisurely meal.  The wine list too is fairly impressive, and the cocktails were unexpectedly good though a little on the small side for the price.

We start with the salumi board, a very attractively presented board with some top quality prosciutto, ham and the like which you can buy to take home from the store.  The olives too were fat and delicious.  We also go for the pork belly, which is tender and juicy; it has an onion jam on top which has a tang and a cabbage and apple salad underneath.


The calamari was beautifully cooked and the accompanying mint, caper and red onion aioli is bursting with flavour.  The scallops on the other hand, served with a sweet corn puree with basil oil and crispy herbs fall a little short, I find them bland despite all the surrounds, perhaps a touch underseasoned.


The pizza gets approval from around the table, a good crust and quality toppings.  The buffalo mozzarella is generous, no skimping here, and the seafood pizza too is beautifully fresh.  But the menu doesn’t mention that it is also full of anchovies, and it should, since it is one of those polarising ingredients.  I find they overpower the delicate mussels and vongole.


And then comes a bit of a showstopper and the dish of the day – a white mushroom risotto with burnt butter and truffle pecorino.  Seriously rich and seriously good. I think it will go on my list of Sydney’s must have pasta dishes.


The other pasta dishes also shine – the squid ink fettucini, and then a succulent ragu, topped with ricotta salata (and be warned, it is salty, so just take it off if its not your thing).  They are generous, which is what Italian food is all about.


We were too full for desert, so I’ll have to try that next time.

I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews on this place, mostly directed at service.  I couldn’t really fault the food and we were warmly welcomed and the waiter we had was very polite.  They do however need a few more floor staff, particularly on a busy Saturday night, to make sure everyone is attentively looked after – if there are any shortcomings, it was that a few extra hands on deck would have been useful.

There’s also a semi private dining room and some well priced banquet menus.




020 (2)

Mercato e Cucina, 297-307 Victoria Road, Gladesville, ph (02) 9817 3457

Mercato e Cucina on Urbanspoon

Bistecca, Abbotsford


You’ve got to love the suburban local. There are times when you just don’t want to grapple with the city, or tear your hair out looking for parking in Newtown. So I’m sure the locals of Abbotsford and surrounds were glad when they could stroll up to Bistecca.

004Bistecca means ‘steak’ in Italian, so there’s no doubt what is the star of the show. The attractively fitted out space (there’s that distressed brick wall look again) has a wall depicting cuts of meat, and there’s a glass cabinet with chunks of the fresh stuff. We eye a whole pig roasting on a spit, which they do for groups with an advance order, and wished there was a few more of us. Funnily enough, though, none of us felt like a big piece of protein that night, it was cool and we wanted to carb up. On this front, our experience was a bit mixed. Those that run the kitchen need a little finessing on technique – a little more cooking here, a little less salt there, small things that would take it from decent to great.

Carciofi Ripieni – baked artichokes filled with breadcrumbs and mint. I loved the breadcrumb and mint sauce, but the artichoke either needed another layer taken off or it needed more cooking. Otherwise it would have been an awesome dish.


Calamari Fritti – lightly fried calamari served with a homemade aioli. Generous amount of calamari, but such a tiny amount of aioli to go with it!


Pizza porcini – with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, truffle oil. A decent enough pizza, good crust and flavoursome.


Mezzaluna all anatra – moon shape pasta filled with duck ragu. Beautiful duck ragu, but the pasta was chewy and a very salty sauce.


Pappardelle con porcini e ragu di osso buco. Again a little salty side.


Taglioni ai frutta di mara – pasta cooked with a mixture of seafood and cherry tomatoes, well flavoured. A generous amount of seafood. On both pasta dishes though the presentation needed a little bit of work – a nice simple pasta swirl would have made it look much more appealing.


Campari poached pear with zabaglione. Nice combo, but what was with the kiwi fruit – out of place.


Vanilla Panna cotta – good consistency and a generous size.


Should we come again, I think we’d go with trying the namesake. Or maybe rustle up a few friends and try that whole roast pig.

Bistecca, 565 Great North Rd, Abbotsford Ph (02) 9713 1773

Bistecca on Urbanspoon

Coffee Warehouse Deli & Cafe, Homebush

A sprawling space on Parramatta Road, Coffee Warehouse Deli & Cafe has just what its name implies – lots of coffee, roasted on the premises, a deli where you can pick up freshly sliced smallgoods and other Italian treats, and a cafe.

The menu has a range of pastas, pizzas, meat dishes, salads and panini.  Not sure if ‘cafe’ is the right name though, these are well and truly restaurant prices – even the panini were an exorbitant $23 and a basic Pizza Margherita $26, while a fillet steak and chips was $36 – it is very expensive and overpriced for what it is, but I will say that the pizza was very good indeed. Similarly the deli goods aren’t bargain prices.


Ham and mushroom027

Would I drive to Homebush especially to come here? Probably not.  But would I drop in for a pizza if I happened to be on Parramatta Road going somewhere else – maybe.


Coffee Warehouse Deli & Cafe, 17-35 Paramatta Road, Homebush, ph (02) 9764 8822
Coffee Warehouse: Cafe & Deli on Urbanspoon

Terrazza, Chatswood


Full disclosure peeps.  The co-owner of Terrazza, Daniel, is a friend of mine.  He’s one of the funniest blokes I’ve ever met and should have his own Reality TV Show, or something.  I’m here with my big loud Italian family for my nephew’s birthday, as the place caters well for groups and has some very well priced banquets.

Terrazza is in the concourse development in Chatswood and opened about 18 months ago . It’s a wide open space which is great for the kids to run around.  There’s a handful of restaurants to choose from and a Ben and Jerry’s for ice cream.

All your Italian classics are here, antipasto, calamari fritti, a dozen or so different pastas, pizza and a handful of meat/chicken/fish mains.  The pizza bases are excellent, so I personally would stick with the ones with simple toppings with a couple of ingredients.  If you’re here with a few friends and share some entrees and have a pizza each, you’ll be out with $35-40 a person.  Kiddie meals are from $9.90-$15.90.  This isn’t a Buon Ricordo, but its classic neighbourhood Italian that will have something to please everyone.

Garlic pizza – my pick of the tapenades was the pesto

Garlic Bread, light and fluffy


Calamari – super tender and a table favourite

Pizza Diavola, with a bit of a kick

Supreme Pizza


Seafood Pizza – another table favourite

Nutella Pizza – nice touch with the strawberries

Terrazza Cafe Restaurant Pizzeria, Shop 3 The Concourse, 405-419 Victoria Ave, Chatswood, ph (02) 9419 5304

Terrazza on Urbanspoon

La Disfida, Haberfield

I’ve been on a bit of an Italian restaurant bender in the last few weeks – Popolo, Cucinetta, Rosetta, and now La Disfida.  It wasn’t intentional, goodness knows I get plied with enough Italian from Mamma Rosa, and also make it myself (and maybe in 20 years I’ll nail the flavours like she does), but it just worked out that way. Tonight we’re out with Salvatore, who is visiting from the Motherland.  He actually owns a good – and ridiculously cheap – pizzeria in my mother’s village.  No, I’m not being brave taking him out for pizza, but like many Italians I know (eg my father), when they go out to eat, they go out for ……Italian. I can’t blame them for not being adventurous, they haven’t had a lot of exposure to other cuisines growing up like we do in Oz.  In the village Salvatore comes from (total population 1,000), you can’t exactly pop up the road to pick up some Pad Thai.

So here we are in downtown Haberfield at La Disfida which opened sometime in the ‘90’s. I used to go there a bit, and I stopped going because, well, actually I’m not sure why.  Probably because others started to open that had to be tried, and then the owners changed and it got sidelined. They were one of the first in Sydney to do ‘proper’ Italian pizzas with a really thin base and only a couple of toppings instead of your thick-crust-super-supreme-with-the-lot. Salvatore tells me he’s had some great, some average pizza in Sydney – in his view there are two essentials – first, the dough must be proved for 24 hours; second, the tomato sauce used should not be pre-cooked.

So after a long time between visits, its time to check out if La Disfida still lives up to the mark. The new owners decided to add a few extras to the menu so it wasn’t just about the pizza and to give a little more choice.  We arrive just after 6pm on a Sunday and the place is heaving –  they take bookings only for groups of 5 or more.  There’s a good and tempting antipasto selection on the specials board as well as a pasta and pizza special of the day.

We order and the food comes out very quickly.  Its a bit of a mixed bag, some dishes are great, some have missed the mark with seasoning. The pizza is good but nothing special – I actually preferred all the antipasto dishes. The damage for five people for 4 antipasti, 1 pasta (Bolognese which was underseasoned and the sauce tasted like it hadn’t been cooked long enough), 4 pizzas and 2 beers was just over $40 a head, so ok I suppose but not extreme value either for pizzas and a few extras (to compare – a margherita here is $22 vs $17 at Lucio Pizzeria and $20 at Via Napoli, and their ‘gourmet’ pizzas are $26, which is also dearer than others). Once it was clear we weren’t having dessert the staff busied themselves cleaning the table and it felt like a little nudge to say  ‘move on already’. I’d put Via Napoli  over this in terms of value and overall taste Northside, and Lucio Pizzeria in the East.

Scampi Gratin (special)…..skinny little scampi, nice gratin but barely any flesh to go with it

Insalata Caprese – excellent creamy Buffalo mozzarella, wonder if its from Paesanella across the street?

Calamari e Zucchini Fritti – underseasoned

Potato, prosciutto and cheese croquettes – this was dish of the day for me. Plump and fatter than I expected, nice crust, creamy inside, and great flavour.

Barletta   – Tomato, mozzarella, prosciutto crudo, basil, pepper, olive oil

(The remains of) Tartufa – Mozzarella Prosciutto Wild Mushrooms Truffle

Bufala – Tomato Mozzarella di Bufala and Basil (where’s the basil?)

La Disfida, 109 Ramsay St Haberfield, ph (02) 9798 8299

La Disfida Enoteca Pizza on Urbanspoon

Popolo, Darlinghurst

Piazza del Popolo is an impressive piazza in central Rome, surrounded by history.  Popolo in Darlinghurst, on the other hand, is tucked into an unsuspecting little square behind the Lexus dealership. A smallish restaurant seating sixty, it manages to feel intimate but not-too-squishy at the same time.

They clearly operate on a simple-but-good philosophy here, and some deft hands in the kitchen know how to let the ingredients shine through without too much fuss and fanfare.  The wood fired prawns for instance, were caressed by a combination of mint, parsely and capers, adding a nice freshness to the dish. The seafood on the Marinati seemed just out of the sea, and the creamy Buffalo mozzarella heightened by the surrounding sweet Summer tomatoes. The generous bowls of crusty bread, made in house, were reminiscent of what I’d have in my mother’s village.

Onto the mains and it was malloreddus (a Sicilian pasta) with a melt-in-the mouth suckling pig sauce. The spatchcock was touch overcooked but well seasoned, and the pizzas crusty.  They are true to their Southern Italian roots here, not tampering too much with what’s on the plate.

Pricing I thought was very reasonable – come in on your own and relax at the bar with an Italian wine and a plate of pasta, or come with friends for a relaxed Sunday lunch. Either way, you won’t have a tremendous hole in your pocket. Service a little hit and miss – we waited quite a while on arrival for someone to approach – with some going for the moody Italian look, others friendly.

Popolo, 50 McLachlan Ave, Darlinghurst ph (02) 9361 6641

Gamberoni – woodfired king prawns, parsley, mint, capersnapolialertpopoli1

Marinati – marinated market fish, baby endive, citrus olive oilnapolialertpopolo2

Latticini – Mozzarella, tomatoes, eggplant, basil olive oilnapolialertpopolo3

Malloreddus with suckling pig ragu (special)napolialertpopolo4

Galletto – roasted spatchcock with radicchionapolialertpopolo5

Pizza Norma – fior di latte, eggplant, ricotta salatanapolialertpopolo6



Popolo on Urbanspoon

Gatto Matto Trattoria, Five Dock

Great name, Gatto Matto.  It’s Italian for “crazy cat”.  And when you meet the chef and owner, Paolo Gatto, you can see a little of the crazy – and I mean that in the nicest possible way (after all, he is Sicilian). Exuberant and welcoming, Paolo wants you to feel right at home in this light filled space nestled behind Five Dock library, and you know that you’ll be able to relax and enjoy.

Paolo and the team are one of the “next generation” of young Italian chefs opening trattorie around Sydney, with a slightly modern take on the great Italian classics. The menu is in Sicilian dialect, and I dare you to have a go at mimicking some of the guttural sounds.  Its got a nice selection of antipasti, pizze, paste and mains, so plenty to please a varied crowd if you’re going with a group. Incidentally, while I like it, how does the Venetian wall paper fit in?

We began with Nzalata di Puppu, octopus salad with fennel and oranges. A lovely and fresh combination of flavours.

Funci chini, stuffed mushrooms with smoked eggplant. A couple of these would be a nice little side with a steak.

Nannata, white bait fritters served in a bed of salad.  Mamma Rosa was like “why you ordering these, I made them last night, why you no come over?”.  And I must admit, hers are better, but it’s a different technique. Lovely salad dressing though.

Tubi, home made fresh pasta with Sicilian ragu`. A beautiful sauce,  “deep” as promised on the menu, with succulent chunks of pork sausage.  The pasta however was a little too on the al dente side for me.

Pappardelle a Marinara. Well executed, and as with the previous pasta dish, a generous portion.

Pisci Mistu arrustutu, grilled mixed seafood on a bed of rocket salad. Again, well cooked, and more of that flavoursome salad dressing.

We also had a sample of the pizza and the base was light and excellent.  So if you weren’t up for a full meal, it’s a pleasant environment to pop in for a quick pizza.  Overall, if I lived in Five Dock surrounds, I’d be a pretty happy local to have this in my corner.

Gatto Matto Trattoria, 2/4 Garfield Street Five Dock, ph (02) 9712 7770


Gatto Matto Trattoria on Urbanspoon