OTR contributor Annalise Toms discovers some of Adelaide’s best and most authentic pizzeria bars and restaurants in SA unveiling the stories and faces behind the eateries while transcending you to the streets of Italia.
Words and images by Annalise Toms | @annalise_toms
As my fresh from the wood oven, prosciutto pizza is delivered right in front of my sparkling eyes and drooling mouth, the streets of Italy come rushing to the foreground of my thoughts.
The smells, the chatter of swift Italian and the nostalgia of housewives and nonnas preparing a meal packed full of love, garlic and parmigiano.
There are twenty different regions in Italy, all with their specific cuisines, tailored flavours and specialties.
Halfway around the world from the motherland of pane de casa and the macchinetta espresso; here in Adelaide, South Australia and yet the culture and the food is still so alive, so vibrant and so passionate.
There is no doubt this year’s COVID crisis has thrown us many challenges. We’ve witnessed cities in a state of lockdown and planes grounded on the tarmac.
So, what now?
No jet-setting to the Mediterranean summer during our cold winter months and no Contiki trips that we can hardly remember.
We’re left to our own devices in the place that we call home and it has left me reminiscing about my last trip overseas; studying, eating and galivanting my way through Italy living ‘la dolce vita’.
I have lived in Adelaide all my life but these uncertain times have really opened my eyes to a whole new appreciation for the taste sensation of our food, the diverse bodies of wine at our lips and the ease and accessibility of living in this festival state.
And it is no secret Adelaide is home to an array of culinary delights, boasting a diverse range of multiculturalism within our thriving food and wine industry – the Italian cuisine being an especially popular choice in SA.
So, since travel is off the cards for the time being, I have voyaged on a more local, flavour sensation journey discovering some of the most authentic pizzerias and restaurants and learning the stories of how they came to be while transcending my taste buds straight back to Italia through il cibo e il vino(the food and wine).
Rusco e Brusco Tigelleria Osteria – Magill Rd, St Morris
I met with owner and life of the restaurant Enrico Paterni who could talk the leg off a chair in the most fascinating and captivating way.
Born in a little town called Arezzo in between Bologna and Firenze (Florence), he then moved to Prato growing up in the beautiful Tuscan Alps.
In November, Enrico and his wife Orietta will be celebrating their fourth year of operating their Tigelleria Osteria on the bustling Magill Road.
Asking Enrico what inspired him to open his restaurant he simply answered with “aarrhh easy” in his thick Italian accent. He comes from an area between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna where the cuisine is one of the most important in Italy.
“I come from the Bolognese sauce area and my town is very close to the Mugello valley where there is the Formula 1 and moto GP, very popular for this fresh pasta,” said Enrico.
“People from the cities, from Florence and from Bologna, everyone is there to try this tortelli de patate,” he said.
The way he described this tortelli de pataewas like a story within itself. Various valleys amongst his town are famous for their different types of garlic, an integral part of not only Italian cooking, but also identifying what taste belongs to what region.
Enrico was very passionate when it came to what authenticity means to him and the region he comes from.
Sure, you can modify your order, but Enrico will do his best to persuade you otherwise, talking about the food and why is it the way it is, bringing his small village of Prato right into his humble St Morris restaurant – he brings the authentic Italy to you.
Enrico specialises in tigelle originating from his region of Italy, a four-inch round bread traditionally filled with cunza, a spread of pork lard and flavoured with garlic and rosemary.
Enrico took me into the kitchen and put the raw tigella dough into its special machine. Once cooked, it was devoured far too quickly. The taste of the bread took me right back to my days living in Italy, consuming fresh panini at the underground train station of Milano Cardona.
Il cibo e il vino
For entrée, we had the very popular gnocco fitto which is the same dough as the tigelle but fried, with a beautiful round burrata cheese, mortadella, finished with rocket, cherry tomatoes and a balsamic glaze, and it tasted just as good as it looks.
Enrico had many a favourite dish on the menu and it’s hard not to with this region’s flavours. He loves his Mumma’s famous Bologna Bolognese recipe which he cooks with love and sometimes even over video call with her.
“The trick is not to cook the sauce for too long … You’re meant to taste the flavours for what they are,” said Enrico.
When it was time to taste this region, I couldn’t go past the Bolognese as I have been trying to master the art since my return from Italia – and boy Enrico’s pappardelle alla Bolognese did not disappoint. There was a richness yet lightness to the pasta which went down so perfectly with a glass of Mother’s Milk 2018 Shiraz.
I also had to try his wood oven bufalina pizza which had a beautiful slightly sweeter margherita tomato base with the sharp salty goodness of the prosciutto, accompanied perfectly by the creaminess of buffalo mozzarella – buonissimo!
Il Camino – Walkerville Terrace
Il Camino translates to the fireplace, the ethos and heart of their restaurant they describe as ‘a place to gather and enjoy life with warming food’.
Opening in April, Il Camino started its journey with takeaway given the unfortunate circumstances COVID brought to the hospitality industry.
I sat down with one of the co-owners Benedetto Danzuso (Ben for short) to chat – in one hand was one of their incredible pastries and in the other, a beautiful strong Italian coffee made by Vincenzo (the charismatic barista).
Good friend and business partner to Ben, Daniele Marino, was the push Ben needed to get this stunning restaurant up and running. Daniele showed Ben the space when it became available, and they took the leap of hospitality faith.
“The passion that we have for the pizza and the restaurant is quite a lot,” said Ben, in another thick Italian accent.
Plumber by trade, he would play around with the wood oven growing up in Catania Sicily but it was in Australia where he really mastered his pizza making.
You will truly feel like you are in the depths of Italy with the sounds of thick Italian dialects pouring out of the kitchen and pizza bar. From the northern parts of Torino right to the south of Sicilia and in between, the staff all have the familiarity of their language and culture.
“It’s family for us and that’s where this came from as well, Daniele is like family to us … we have each other here,” said Ben.
“We have always visioned this big table full of food, and family, and that’s what we have always grown up to be.”
Il cibo e il vino
Ben’s favourite pizza on the menu is the Tartufata which is truffle cream, fior di latte, mushroom topped with prosciutto San Daniele and Italian shaved parmigiano. And when it comes to pasta, it was a hard choice as he can’t go past their Linguine Ai Gamberi filled with prawns broccolini, bread crumbs, chilli and garlic.
Ben’s recommendation of wine with these delicious dishes is the Italian varietal, the Barbera. Il Camino has a locally made, McLaren Vale Barbera from Zerella Wines and it is beautiful.
The atmosphere combined with the tastes of southern Italy were electric. I started off the evening with the polpette for entrees which is a traditional Italian meatball dressed in delicious sugo di napolitana with bread on the side. And Mumma Mia it was amazing. The simple, yet full of flavour sauce complemented the meatballs so beautifully and left me wanting more. But I had to keep room for the main round of food for the evening … the pizza!
I decided on a staple favourite of mine, the San Daniele – I am just a sucker when it comes to prosciutto and I knew I made the right decision when I took my first bite. The fresh prosciutto laid so perfectly on top, united with the fresh, peppery crunch of the rocket and bite of the parmigiano – this was exactly what I needed in my life on a Friday night.
The second pizza I went for was on their specials menu that they were trialling, which was the Tratufai Calabresi Pizza. Not my usual go-to, but boy was it the right one. Fior di latte, rich truffle paste, mushrooms and topped off with hot salami. The flavours just worked sensationally. I don’t tend to eat a lot of truffles, but this was the perfect amount to really appreciate the taste yet, not so overpowering that it cancelled the other flavours out – Bravo Il Camino!
Brasco’s Pizzeria – Glynburn Road
Giacamo Puccio and Jonnie Giannitto’s bromance was a match made in pizza and gnocchi heaven.
Before their Glynburn Road restaurant opened back in March of 2018, these guys started their journey in the backyard of Jonnie’s Nonna Maria’s house testing and experimenting the fine art of pizza.
Their dough is made a minimum of 48 hours prior to coming into its final pizza form, allowing it precious time to grow and develop.
Second-generation Italians, the boy’s families come from the same area of Benevento, Italy.
Jonnie, Giacamo and Nonna Maria get together every Monday to make their fresh gnocchi. While making the gnocchi, the boys said they love a cheeky drop of strega to help pass the time – a traditional liquor made from a concoction of many herbs and spices from their Benevento region.
The staff at Brasco’s Pizzeria are all pretty much family which is one of the greatest parts about this little hole-in-the-wall in the eastern suburbs.
“The best thing about having family in the business is that they know how passionate myself and Jonnie are with what we do and how much care, and they respect that,” said Giacamo.
Their simplistic yet full of flavour menu is refreshing, making it easier for the customer to choose their dish without being overwhelmed by choice.
“Our menu is quite simple just the way we like it,” said Giacamo
“We specialise in our pizzas and our pizzas are what we want to specialise in.
“Our gnocchi and our antipasto dishes are very simple, kind of like peasant food … they are easy eating and we enjoy that, and to me that’s all I need.”
Il vino e il cibo
“Food is everything,” said Giacamo, and I tend to agree with him.
“I love eating, I love that food brings people together, it makes you happy. If you eat good food, it makes you happy.”
Giacamo’s favourite pizza on their menu is the salsice e friarelli with fior di latte, parmigiano, broccolini and homemade Italian pork sausage. He would pair this light delicious pizza with a drop of the Brasco Montepulciano, a collaboration with a winemaker in the Barossa.
For Jonnie it’s the Brasco pizza he loves with its fior di latte, parmigiano, pancetta, black truffle, mushroom and rosemary.
While dining in at Brasco’s, it truly felt like the relaxed pizza bar where you don’t have to dress up to go and enjoy an authentic slice of Napoli at their establishment – exactly the vibe the boys were going for.
Italian cards are decked out on the table to help the time pass while you’re waiting for your mouth-watering pizza.
I tried their bottle of Brasco Montepulicano and I can tell you it was an extremely smooth Italian varietal drop that accompanied Nonna Maria’s gnocchi rosso and gnocchi gorgonzola perfectly.
Then moving on to what they are renowned for, we indulged in their prosciutto pizza as it is a favourite of mine no matter where I go, and their giannitto with its sugo napolitana sauce, fior di latte, parmigiano, olive and sopressa.
It is authentic, perfect wood oven pizza that melts in your mouth and the charred crust just leaves you wanting more – Grazie Brasco’s Pizzeria.
Blue Velvet Artisan Pizza and Pastry Lab – Henley Beach Road
Italian power couple Ilenia Scuderi and Paolo Rosina own this elegant, and vibrant restaurant off the main drag of Henley Beach Road.
Master craftsmen of their trade, the couple are so passionate about their food and what they bring to the food culture.
Ilenia specialises in the most beautiful pastries, starting her love and appetite for baking when she was a little girl making biscuits and cakes and begging her Mumma for a dolche forno.
She began her professional journey, however, at sixteen years old, working in a pastry lab until she was twenty-four, before venturing into her own experimental territory. She has also completed a few courses on healthy pastries with famous Italian pastry chef, Luca Montersino. Paolo learnt his tricks of the trade at the Italian school of pizza in Rome
She is also very inventive when it comes to her desserts, changing the menu to accompany the seasonal flavours, with mango, passionfruit and raspberries to be enjoyed at Blue Velvet summer.
The two met twelve years ago and kindled their love in Aprilia just outside of Roma. Initially, Ilenia wanted to travel to America and pursue her pastry passion. However, Paolo’s tales and description of Australia was far too enticing for Ilenia.
“Once we became citizens of Australia we could open our shop, our dream,” chuckled Ilenia.
Owning and running this restaurant has been a joint dream of the pair ever since they met, “It’s something that we have always wanted to do,” said Paolo.
Illenia and Paolo (but I think mostly Illenia) are big fans of David Lynch and his 1986 American psychological mystery thriller film Blue Velvet which is where the inspiration for the name of the restaurant comes from.
They also fell in love with the rich blue tones and when the old charismatic building became available, the theme and décor fell exactly into place.
Il cibo e il vino
Paolo uses a rare pre-fermented dough creating a light and delicious bread helped by a state-of-the-art electric pizza oven.
For Paolo and Ilenia, they both agreed on the classic margherita pizza as their favourite from their menu, and unlike the other restaurants I had been to, they both would pair this delicious pizza with a nice and refreshing beer (preferably the Italian kind).
For entrée, I had the suppli’ al telefono, an entrée classic for Ilenia and Paolo. Traditionally roman street food, it was very similar to an arancini ball, which I cannot resist at the best of times. A lightly fried ball of rice, which is cooked in a beef-based tomato sauce and stuffed with mozzarella fior di latte. It was delizioso, and one was simply not enough.
For pizza, I went for their favourite margherita pizza with its San Marzano tomato, mozzarella fior di latte, basil and extra virgin olive oil, as well as some homemade chilli oil on top because a little heat never did anyone harm. I can see why this one was their favourite, so light and fluffy and way too easy to inhale.
The next pizza was their parmigiana pizza with the same beautiful San Marzano tomato, mozzarella fior di latte, as well as fried eggplant, parmesan and the all-important basilico. Once again, this pizza delivered on its light and fluffy goodness.
For dessert,Ilenia is the first to admit she is fussy when it comes to tiramisu and who can blame her, she knows her sweets. Her tiramisu according to Paolo (a credible source–trust me) is one of a kind, not only the best in Adelaide but also the best in Italy.
Ilenia, like Enrico from Brusco e Rusco, said it’s all in the mascarpone. And it was delicious. So light with the amazing flavours of the coffee, liquor, chocolate shavings and that all-important mascarpone. Like the pizzas it was light and beautiful, hitting all the right flavour combos that you would want from a tiramisu – delizioso Blue Velvet.