This one is special. The maestro of Naples-style (Napoletana) pizza, Gabriele Bonci visits Sydney for the Crave Sydney International Festival (specifically this event) and imparts his remarkable method of pizza-making and it just leaves you wanting more. Forget the pizzas you get at Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Eagle Boys, hell, Pancakes on the Rocks. Bonci’s pizzas are amongst the world’s best, and if you missed him this time around, you can always go to Lucio’s, which purportedly has Sydney’s BEST pizza (Bonci, who after this event visited the pizzeria said the same!). Man, I don’t know why I myself haven’t been yet…anyways. Name: Ormeggio at the Spit Date Visited: 5/10/2012 Address: D’Albora Marinas The Spit, Spit Rd, Mosman 2088 Go-to dish: if I could, the pizzas. But as it stands, the roast lamb Bonci and Alessandro Pavoni – the head chef of two hatted Italian restaurant Ormeggio at the Spit, know each other from days past. They’re almost like brothers (physically too! Check the pic below). As a lover of pizza, I knew I was in for a treat when I signed up for this special Crave showcase dinner. It’s called Ormeggio “at the Spit” because it really is by the water, you get quite the view though we didn’t get much of one since it was at night…still, the lights from buildings reflected in the water is a nice sight. A sight I forgot to captureStill, it’s definitely alfresco – no shred of doubt.
The dinner is called a showcase for good reason. Although the initial baking of the pizza dough is done behind closed doors, the garnishing of the pizzas is done in front of everybody, and it’s a real sight really. Fresh ingredients really look good. But first, a few things that I learned from Bonci (who doesn’t speak English btw, but gets translated by Pavoni) with regards to Napoletana pizza making… …pizza originated in Naples! …you have to knead and pinch the dough for much longer than normal pizzas, and with much more forte (strength). This allows the dough to become consistent, light and airy. …Naples pizza has a distinct ‘thin ‘n’ crispy’ crust, but it’s much more uniform and tasty than the stuff you get elsewhere, due to a double baking method (that’s specific to Bonci) where the pizza base is cooked twice over on both sides for 60-90 seconds to induce perfect consistency. My mouth is drooling as I type this. No kidding. And yes, you need a wood-fired oven to get the final product, which has a heavenly smoked flavour that an electric oven will never, ever provide. When I visit Lucio’s one day, I know I’ll be seeing their wood-fired ovens, imported all the way from Italy. So there’s some awesome pizza-making tips. I won’t be trying out any of them soon (anyone wanna get me a wood-fired oven?), but it’s wonderful to know the tips and tricks of the trade.
If you look towards the left of that picture you can see the cross-section of the crust – notice how airy it is? You’re definitely not going to get that thick-carb taste you’ll get with more pan-style pizzas. At this point though, your tastes may differ to mine as some prefer it that way. I’d personally prefer to enjoy the pizza for less carbs 😛
And the first course is served. My tasting notes are going to be a common theme for the two pizzas that are to come, but that’s a good thing. The pizza base makes the pizza – without a good foundation, what’s there to enjoy? Might as well just eat the toppings by themselves. But of course, you already know what I’m going to say at this point. The pizza base is just divine. It may well be the best pizza base I’ve ever tasted. I don’t say “the best of” too often for fear of repudiation and because there may always be something better around the corner, but in this case I think I’ve found the perfect pizza base. Backed by an authentic cooking process performed by a world-class pizza master…well it’s going to be hard to top that. Carbs just became even more enjoyable to have. The toppings are vegetarian, and to me, a meat lover, are less impressive than the pizza base itself. Ample flavour is delivered by the vegetables which are fresh and crisp and all good in and of themselves, still, it was the base that really made it. After this first course, the chefs begin preparing the second pizza course. Man, I can’t wait to see what this one will be like!
Now this one is yum, the inclusion of salumi (cured meats) goes a long way in taking the toppings to a new level. My comments about the base as usual, echo what I’ve said before. The toasted eggplant that’s been almost “fused” with the base tastes absolutely DELICIOUS, and coupled with an ample serving of diced onion make for a much more flavoursome combo than the last pizza. Of course, then we come to the salumi itself, which if you were to have it alone, would be extremely salty and over-flavoured. Hint, you’re not meant to have it by itself. Take a bite of the salumi, and then take a much larger bite of the pizza. Mmm, that is flavour complementing done right, right there. Looking forward to the next one even more now! I was very curious as to those dumpling/chicken-shaped things they were putting on top of each of the pizza slices. I had to ask, and I found out.
Phooar, so clearly, I’ve never actually had real buffalo mozzarella before. It doesn’t taste like any cheese I’ve had before. It’s actually really light on flavour – which means you could eat a lot of it without getting saturated like with many other cheeses. Its texture is actually quite tough, almost like gum that’s been chewed for awhile. Of course unlike gum, it does break up after a bit of chewing. All in all, makes for an interesting texture/flavour combination that is simply…new to me. The pizza has this cheese as a topping, on top of a base of sicilian tomatoes (which I saw were imported directly from Italy), all over the same tasty base as before. Another vegetarian creation, I can begin to see how artisanal and rustic Bonci’s approach to making pizzas really is. When I visit Italy and his “Hole in the Wall” pizzeria, I’ll be sure to try out his other recipes which include meat. Not that this pizza was bad (it was yum), but when I eat carbs, I can’t resist having some protein to go as well. That was a fantastic first course, an entrée if you will (main if you ate many slices – you could eat more than one). For the second course, we finally take the seats (we were standing before). Here, Pavoni and a sommelier (not the sommelier who regularly works at Ormeggio) describe the various wines we’ll be having throughout the dinner. Now I didn’t actually remember much, as I’m no wine expert, nor am I particularly interested since I don’t drink. I do remember the crowd going “oohhhh” and “aaaahhh” at certain points during his description…so it must be some pretty special wine. Well, might as well have quality, right?
Our first protein finally arrives, and it’s a generous plate of roast lamb, to share. Just looking at it made my mouth water, despite the fact that I just had what could have been a whole pizza’s worth of pizza (that makes sense). The gravy was spot on, rich in flavour, but not overpowering. This is so important, as some gravies are so salty and rich that the meat they are meant to accompany is pretty much relegated to “provides texture” status. Not cool. Good thing two-hatted Ormeggio is easily going to avoid that particular mistake. The end result is tasty gravy that pairs excellently with the lamb… …which by the way is fantastic lamb. No toughness – all soft and tender. Juicy, and you know, just all round good lamb!
Naturally, a side of roasted potatoes is the perfect match, and they are fantastic – soft, consistent all the way through, with a good browning of the skin. I ate perhaps two or three more than I’d have liked, but what the heck, I paid for my stomach to be satisfied, and that was what it took for satisfaction.
Out comes the second protein and it’s most people’s favourite meat, pork! I particularly liked the crackling – it was super tough actually (which is not good), but if you could work your way into it delivers bursts of fatty flavour that guilt trip you all the way to Perth and back. Mission accomplished. The pork meat itself was a bit underwhelming, it wasn’t particularly juicy nor succulent, only passable. Dunno what happened here, but that’s what I got, so I guess that’s how it is.
So of course, a cheese selection was going to come after – classic Italian! To me, the cheeses tasted quite similar, and I thought it may be because I have a ridiculously under-developed palate when it comes to cheese (which is actually true). But then I got home, did some research, turned out that caciocavallo and provola are quite similar in their tastes and textures. Explains why they looked similar as well. Their flavours are rather sweet (so they must’ve been aged somewhat), and have a hardness somewhere in between the pecorini (which is fairly hard) and soft cheddar. Goes well with the beetrot condiment. Actually, I barely used to the horseradish condiment – it just didn’t taste right to me, but definitely YMMV. The obvious suggestion to eat the cheeses with the crackers is going to be made, otherwise you’re going to saturate your taste buds with the strong flavours of the cheeses. Crispy and toasty, the crackers go very well with the yellow goodness.
At this point, we were offered a dessert wine (so…like an alcoholic soft drink haha). All the wines before have been on and off, but this moscato…yeah it’s probably the best I’ve ever tasted. A super crisp feel on the tongue, with an intense flowery aroma and peach scents, and a sweetness that reminds you of everything that’s sweet about life. Ahhh, what do! I should buy myself a bottle sometime down the line, even though I basically never buy wine. It’s that good. Might be too sweet for some though.
And the dessert that’s to match the moscato – it was obviously going to be tiramisu. It’s made with all of the usual ingredients that go into this classic dessert, and all I can say is that it’s made well, and tastes great. Nothing special or fancy about it – just a well constructed sweet thang. Good work. Well, that’s this particular Crave showcase dinner wrapped up. It’s been an amazing experience – something that you will never experience if you just walked into Ormeggio – Bonci wouldn’t be there, those pizzas won’t be there (they’re not on Ormeggio’s menu!), and the experience would not have been had. Still, there’s always next year – it won’t be the same kind of event, but this is a good example of why Crave events are worth attending. At $149 (for this particular one), it’s actually quite a steal. Bravo, team! The Good: omgosh Bonci was actually here! Above average lamb. Wonderfully unique experience. Communal dining! The Bad: some underwhelming pork, fairly standard everything elses As for the pizza – The Good: the best pizza bases ever, superb toppings The Bad: could use more proteins in the toppings I give Ormeggio at the Spit a grand total of seven Caesars out of ten – 7/10 I give Bonci’s pizzas a grand total of nine and a half Caesars out of ten!!!!! – 9.5/10 I feel that if Bonci’s pizzas were actually on Ormeggio’s menu permanently, with more variety, that score would easily be an 8.5 or a 9. As it stands, they’re not, so I’m giving separate scores for both the restaurant, and the pizzas. I’ll definitely be back at Ormeggio “normally” one day, to try out their menu regulars. Just you wait for that. You can tell from the pizza score that it’s time to fly to Naples, and have at it. I know I will be, in about a year! Oh btw, check it out – my friend and I got a picture with the pair! Yeah, what a plug, 😛