Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pizza Farro

It's a warm, humid Thursday night and we're walking down to the nearest pizza place on High Street to home. And the nearest pizza place happens to be Pizza Farro. Pizza Farro prides itself on making pizza bases from spelt. Well, you might ask; "what the %$# is spelt and why should I care? Is it some sort of hippie rubbish from the mountains of Tibet, only eaten by goatherds and unlucky goats?"

Alternatively, in a more polite universe, you might have wondered more discreetly... " What is this thing, this spelt? What does it spell? What did it spelt? What will it.. ummm... Spool? Spult?""

Spelt, according to the collective oracle, is apparently a hexaploid species of wheat. So there you go. Wikipedia says it is "a wheat species known from genetic evidence to have originated as a hybrid of a domesticated tetraploid wheat such as emmer wheat and the wild goat-grass Aegilops tauschii. "

Or maybe it was delivered unto us by aliens. Or maybe it's some sort of manna gifted unto us by the flying spaghetti monster. I'm not convinced by the theory of genetics - like the creationists, I think we need to give equal time to the theory of alien-gifted grain. Nor do I subscribe to the so-called "theory of gravity".

Sweet decor
And while I don't want to be drawn into religious matters, on the subject of the flying spaghetti monster, surely a flying pizza monster would be both more aerodynamic and more likely to be closer to divine perfection?

A family affair

Penny and Kent are about to fly into earthquake-prone Santiago. And when I say "earthquake-prone", I mean, "had a major one last week.. and.. well... just watch out, ok?". Tonight is about wishing them farewell, bon voyage and a degree of geological stability. It's a bit tough to organise a holiday and then discover your destination has been picked up by the ankles and given a rough and ready shaking until all city's loose change is rattling around your feet.

Anyway, we were there with Penny, Kent, Judy and nephew Matt who was staying with Judy.

Pizza Farro is directly opposite our favourite cheap and familiar pizza place, La Casareccia, which takes a more traditional Australian approach to home delivered pizza, if that's not an oxymoron, so the night made for an interesting comparison.

The first thing you notice about Pizza Farro is the warm and comforting decor. In the front half there's a bunch of friendly crap hanging from a rail (upside-down pot plants, nouveau-rustic implements); while in the longer rear section there is a wonderful collection of rolling pins hanging from the ceiling in elegant rows.

I wish I'd thought of that. It's perfect.

The staff are charming in a perfectly natural way (no artificial ingredients or training in how to smile) and efficient. Ordering was easy and drinks were brought out swiftly.

F, Judy and Will all had pasta. Contemporary accounts spoke highly of the spelt pasta, although from across the table the pasta looked a little grey. But F's marinara was very fresh with large pieces of seafood and a light lemon tang, and Will's special order of cheese only was accommodated without any hesitation.

The rest of us had pizzas to share, and they were pretty damn good. We ordered a pizzas with prosciutto, broccoli, pancetta, ossobucco (?!) and sausage.

All the pizza bases were thin and slightly crisp -just perfect. Must be the spoolt. The prosciutto was light and salty; the pancetta had (I think) some melted nuggets of blue cheese that gave it another dimension and the ossobucco was rich and hearty while maintaining the grace of a thin pizza with a crisp base.

The broccoli pizza was wonderful, and so much better than I'd expected. The firm texture of broccoli, almost crisp, was balanced with formaggio and chili flakes - one I will order again.

Broccoli pizza - who would've thought?

Although expectations were high for the sausage pizza, it disappointed only by comparison to everything else. It was ok. The sausage was nothing special and the slices were thin. No other flavours set it on fire, and in the absence of fire...

A largely conventional sausage pizza

I was a bit surprised at the number of pizzas that had rocket dumped on top. Half of the pizzas brought to us were smothered in rocket. Now, I think the invention of rocket sometime in the last decade or so has been one of the great achievements of mankind. How else would I have taught my children about adult concepts like "bitter" and "salad"? But this time too many pizzas were given the rocket treatment and it gave them a homogeneity that they didn't deserve.

And then, in the middle of food and general bonhomie, O-week made it's appearance by virtue of a band of undergraduates marching up High St in identical t-shirts and diverse voices. I can't identify any of the many songs they sang concurrently in the moments they passed Pizza Farro, but that wasn't really the point.

The bon voyagees

I was a bit green and timid to really get into O-week celebrations, but by half way through my undergraduate year was traipsing through Fitzroy and Carlton with fellow students of physics and chemistry, engaged in both bold neurochemical empiricism (n=1) and lustful experiments in the most physical of physics.

But on this night the students were charming, chanting and deeply inoffensive. They marched past us in the restaurant, chanting something or other, looking young and perky, and it saddened me that I was not outraged.

The author, nephew Matt, Kent and Penny

Desserts were had by the few, and the reports were all positive. A rich, moist beetroot chocolate cake was enjoyed, and the gelati had both an intense flavour and just the right texture.

Pizza Farro is now the second quality pizza place we've visited on High Street (I Saluti was the other) and it compares well. The pizzas are great; those that ordered pasta dishes all spoke highly of them (putting aside the undead colour of the spelt pasta). It also has the advantage of being within walking distance from home, and that's got to be good. We'll be going again, and we'll enjoy it.

What are you looking at?

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