03 September 2009

Simple, authentic pizza at Scopa

Don't get me wrong: I love pizza. It's got to be one of my favourite foods. But often, pizza here (cough cough, major pizza delivery chains) can be so mediocre, the essentials (crust/base, tomato sauce, cheese) being drowned out by a truckload of toppings, swirls of barbecue and/or sweet chilli sauce, so that what you're really eating is a smorgasboard of everything imaginable, doused in sauce and plopped onto a slab of dough. I like toppings, just not to the extent that you lose sight of what you're actually meant to be eating! Hmm, so maybe I'm a purist.

Anyway, I'm always thrilled when I discover a place that has mastered what pizza should taste like, before going nuts with wacko topping combinations. Scopa can definitely count itself in this category. Pizzas are made fresh to order (you can see the guys skillfully tossing the dough behind the counter), cooked thin-crust style in a woodfired oven.

And, on Tuesdays at lunchtime they offer $8 margherita pizzas (normally $14) - a nod to the idea that "simple is best", perhaps? It's an example of how great pizza should be, with the chewy, almost-crispy base, the combination of simple tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese, a sprinkling of fresh basil leaves. And it's the foundation for all the Bresolin brothers' other pizzas, which, though they have toppings, never overlook the essentials.

Here's my favourite part. For those looking for a little extra zing on their pizza, tables are topped with Huffman's hot sauce and a bottle of homemade chilli oil... my favourite!! At lunchtime the chilli oil bottles sometimes seem to be in short supply, but don't hesitate to ask for one (or snag one off another table) - the atmosphere is casual enough that this is easily done.

On this particular occasion I still hadn't had breakfast, so while E ordered a margherita pizza for himself, I perused the all day brunch/lunch menu and settled on the warm muesli with amaretti mascarpone and fig molasses ($8.50).

It was stunningly delicious. I didn't really know what to expect from the words "warm muesli" - a crunchy, hot cereal?! - but what arrived was a decadent porridge, complete with plump raisins and little pieces of shaved apple, topped with a generous dollop of amaretti mascarpone (divine) and lashed with a sweet, gooey sauce that must have been the fig molasses. Wow. Perhaps a little too sweet for an everyday breakfast, but what a treat!

I also ordered a side of potato and wild mushroom hash ($3.50). Again, I'm not too sure what I had been expecting, but this is what arrived:

The potatoes were well-cooked, and everything was glistening with the earthy, brown juices of the wild mushrooms. However, it tasted a little bland (generous dashes of salt and chilli oil fixed this), and I found maybe one mushroom in the mix - most of the brown stuff turned out to be onion.

Scopa remains one of my perennial favourites with its good, simple Italianesque cuisine, the casual, friendly atmosphere, the fact that it's open all day, the thick, rich hot chocolates ($2.50-$5.50). Plus, its location on the corner of Cuba & Ghuznee streets (and the floor-to-ceiling windows that open up in the summer) make it an ideal spot for people-watching. Try to grab a table by the window.

If you're going for pizza, one pie is enough for one really hungry person or 2 not-so-hungry people. In the past, a couple of girl friends and I would usually share 2 margherita pizzas between the 3 of us, which worked well. There are some other bargains at lunchtime ($10 lunch specials, $10 paninis with salad), though the option to create your own panini or sandwich from a list of meats, veggies and cheeses has sadly disappeared. If you're going on a Tuesday at lunchtime I'd recommend getting in quick, as the $8 margherita pizza seems to be a popular choice!

RATING: 4.5/5

Scopa Caffe Cucina
Cnr Ghuznee & Cuba Streets



Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Love the bottles of hot sauce and homemade chilli oil. I was always fascinated with the facade of Scopa and on both my visits I'd inevitably take a brochure for perusal. Still never made it though - hopefully next time! The pizzas sound great!

millie mirepoix said...

Helen - thanks for the comments! Perhaps you knew this already but the Huffman's hot sauce is made in Wellington... I'd say it's a pretty good alternative to Tabasco, though I prefer the chilli oil myself :)

Laura @ Hungry and Frozen said...

I've been meaning to try this place and its pizza out for a while now. Unf I love margherita pizza. And loathe swirls of barbeque sauce. For what it's worth, I can definitely recommend the pizza at Fratelli's as well - delicious stuff.

millie mirepoix said...

ooh, I was thisclose to going to Fratelli's a few weeks back... now I'll have to try it! thanks for the tip. and hooray for margherita pizza :)

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

I didn't know that about Huffman's. A shame as I love my chilli sauce!