Sogni d’Oro ‘Aperitivo Danzante’ – ACT 1 – Two Italian Boys, Brunetti & White Rabbit Entertainment

Two Italian Boys, Brunetti and White Rabbit Enterntainment were behind the brilliant idea to create a series of events with the main aim of bringing people together to experience the real Italian Dream. The nights will run as a series of Acts (3 in total) beginning with Act 1 – Sogni d’Oro ‘Aperitivo Danzante’.

Unfortunately I wasn’t in Melbourne for Act 1 – which took place on Friday October 17, 2014 and was complemented with Italian food, drinks and dancing. However, I have seen many pictures, read the official media releases and heard a lot about the night from people lucky enough to have attended so thought it would be a great idea to mention it here at Grazing Panda – after all there are another 2 more Acts for everyone to experience and enjoy!

The name Aperitivio Danzante comes from the tradition of pre-dinner drinks which are accompanied by appetizers (Aperitivio) and ‘to dance’ (Danzante) – essentially translated to mean come for the appetizers but stay for the dancing fiesta! In Italy this generally means between the hours of 7pm – 9pm, followed by dinner …. and dancing!

On the night Two Italian Boys (Michael Pillon and Nick Guglielmino) launched a 2013 vintage Prosecco DOC which was produced in Valdobbiadene,Treviso- Italy’s best Prosecco making region. This new Prosecco wonderfully complemented the array of food on offer from the new and delicious Brunetti menu designed by Michele Circhirillo and Alessandro Violi. Some of dishes included pasta, wood-fire pizza and beautifully prepared tasting plates or stuzzichini – all of which were served throughout the night, so no guest was ever hungry or looking for food.

A live demonstration of mozzarella making by Australia’s best maker of Italian cheese, the ‘Maestro of Mozzarella’, Giorgio Linguanti (That’s Amore Cheese) gathered large crowds. The chef showcased his talent, experience and artisian skills whilst making round balls of mozzarella which had a taste to match the look.

Another highlight was the introduction by Burnetti of a specially developed range of alcohol infused Apertif gelato by by Chef Gelatiere Alessio Tavella, including Aperol and Campari Spritz, Prosecco – which is a first in Australia.

Brunetti is a Melbourne institution that has been around for years – since 1985 when the original store first opened up in Faraday Street – and is well known for its Italian style coffee as well as intriguing and huge variety of cakes. Brunetti is bringing a bit of Rome to Melbourne in an authentic fashion, and events like this clearly showcase its capability to do so.

The venue was divided into three sections and was recreating the timeless style of Federico Fellini’s film ‘La Dolce Vita.’ The rear section housing the DJ (where some funky Italian tunes were played) and a small bar, the middle section consisted of the Trevi Fountain (one of my absolute favourite places to visit in Rome) which aided to recreate the famous scene in the film, as well as a large wall painting and comfy seats. For added fun guests were invited to make a wish while tossing a coin into the fountain (just as you would if you went to visit the real Trevi Fountain), with all the proceeds going to Make –A-Wish Foundation. Such a brilliant idea and for such a great cause! The front section consisted of another bar as well as the gelato display and shelves which stocked traditional Italian good to welcome the guests.

From the pictures you can tell that everyone there had an extremely fun night that represented the true Italian way of celebrating. Both food and drinks were in abundance thanks to the waiters/waitresses walking around ensuring guests were always being looked after. The mix of the crowd – both of the younger and older generations – was clearly seen with mingling happening throughout the night.

Act 1 was clearly a hit amongst everyone that attended – especially after reading some glowing reviews – I cannot wait to see what the team has in store for Acts 2 and 3. Act 2 is set to take place on December 4th at Brunetti Carlton, with Act 3 to following on January 23rd at Brunetti City Square. Stay tuned for more information!

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Gasolina – Motorcycles, Pizza and Good Food

Menu:

Custom Bar Snacks Custom Bar Snacks2 Grills and Mains One Drop Lunch Pasta Pizzas Salads and Starters Sandwiches, Sliders Sweets

I was in charge or organising a team lunch around our work area and I had previously been to Gasolina and really liked the space and thought they did pretty good pizzas – so decided on trying this place again. Right from the start the staff were very helping as I needed for them to send through a menu and needed to pre-order food as well. I think I must have called them at least 5 times, and yet they were still so patient and helpful in answering my questions with regards to various dietary requirements. A big tick for customer service.

Gasolina is located in Docklands and is part restaurant, part bar and part motorcycle garage and workshop – all located conveniently in a shed at South Wharf. The cuisine is traditional Italian complete with wood fire pizzas, grilled meats and the variety of the homemade pasta’s. The space is vast and has kept its warehouse/shed feel with the bar splitting up the dining area to the right and a lounge area with lounges, tables and Robot art. You also have direct access to the garage next to Gasolina which houses customer motorcycles and a few automobiles. To keep with the theme – there are motorcycles scattered around the restaurant / bar area too. What is also very unique and a huge point of difference is that there are Transformer robot replicas around the place – there was a mini one located on the bar and a HUGE robot located in the loungey area. I loved it!

Gasolina serves traditional Italian food such as wood fire pizzas, daily made pasta as well as grilled meats. The menu’s are rather funky as well and resembles a block of wood with a bolt to tie back to the workshop. Something new that they are trailing is a menu called a One Drop Lunch – which costs $25 and comes with a house wine, beer or a soft drink. What it is, is essentially 3 courses all served in “one drop” in a tray that resembles a Thali that some Indian restaurants use. You get an entrée, main and dessert as well as bread with olive oil and whipped butter and the best part – a tablet that looks like a refresher mint – but is actually a wet towel once you have completed your meal. You simply drop this table into water and voila it becomes a towelette. Very cool hey!

You get to choose out of three options for each of the courses and there are also vegetarian and gluten free options available. Refer to the menu above to see the options.

For my One Drop lunch – I got the Insalata, The Mushroom Risotto and the Chocolate Mousse. The Insalata caprese came with vine tomato, pesto, buffalo mozzarella, ligurian olive, balsamic, and was quite refreshing. The ingredients were fresh and juicy. The Mushroom risotto was served with marscapone and truffle oil and was quite filling and really tasty. The risotto rice was cooked perfectly. The Dark Chocolate mousse came with poached pear and cookie crumbs – and had a rich taste which paired well with the sweetness of the poached pears.

I really like this concept and think it’s a great and novel idea!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to the thumbnails above – there is a Pizza, Pasta, Sides, Salads, Starter, Dessert and One Drop Lunch Menu
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Warehouse feel and inviting
Service: Great and very friendly!
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://gasolina.com.au/gasolina-restaurant-bar/
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://gasolina.com.au/gasolina-restaurant-bar/
25 Dukes Walk, South Wharf Promenade
Ph: 03 9696 1169

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11am – Late
Kitchen open from 12PM Daily

Gasolina Melbourne on Urbanspoon

Gorksi and Jones – Melbourne Style, Simple Tasty Food

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For my birthday dinner with my group of friends I picked Gorski & Jones. This great restaurant is located in Smith Street in Collingwood and is brought to you by Paul and Linda Jones – who also head up Brunswick Street’s popular Alimnetari together with Meaghan Gorski (ex-Jacques Reymond, St Peter’s) and voila you get the name Gorski & Jones. It was Gorski herself who drew up the initial sketches to overhaul what used to be The Last Record Store (which had been here for the last 18 years) and gave the ideas over to artist David Murray.

The result is a welcoming and warm room despite its high wooden ceilings – it is complete with bare brick walls, industrial lightshades which create mood lighting, plant boxes, an open kitchen with white tiles and the highlight of the kitchen – the wood-fire oven. The other main highlight of the room is the long marble bar with dark wooden pannelling. Atop of the bar is ever changing daily selection of antipasti which is displayed in a glass cabinet.You can walk through the main room through to the well constructed outside inside courtyard, so it’s a great place for all types of weather. The courtyard is long, homely and warm complete with its wooden floors and over-sized lights.

The wait staff are just as warm as the venue is and are super-friendly and happy to help in any way. They knew it was a birthday dinner and offered the table a free glass of wine for everyone which I thought was a nice touch. The menu is split into 5 different sections – antipasto, entree, main, sides and desserts. We are all quite hungry so it doesn’t take too long to decide on what we want. There were some specials that were available as well – with the highlight amongst the table being the crackling pork. The fish of the day was a Snapper cooked whole. I was deciding between the fish of the day, the risotto and the gnocchi pasta. I decided to go with the gnocchi in the end.

Whilst our food arrived we were given warm house made bread together with ricotta which was placed along with the olive oil. Something so simple yet tasted so good and everyone around the table enjoyed this addition of ricotta. Gorski and Jones was already off to a great start in terms of food.

For starters we got a serving of the Zucchini Flowers – Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, Mozzarella and Peperonata. The Zucchini Flowers come in a tempura style covering and are stuffed with delicious creamy ricotta which comes atop of the peperonata. The dish is fresh and flavoursome and one of the better zucchini flowers I have tasted.

There was a variety of different dishes around the table for mains. This ranged from lamb to chicken livers! There was Chicken Cacciatore, Pancetta, Kiplers, Olives as well as Pappardelle, Guanciale, Chicken Livers, Caramelised Onions & Radicchio. N had the pasta with chicken livers and thought it was quite a tasty dish, however couldn’t finish the entire dish as it was quite filling. S had the Roasted Lamb Rump with White Beans, Rosemary and Olive Tapenade – which was quite a generous serving and the white beans complimented the perfectly cooked lamb. M had the Saffron Risotto with Scallops, Peas, Dill and Lemon – of which I got to taste a portion of. The risotto was cooked well and had all the seafoody flavours from the scallops – the only feedback that both M and I would have was that there could have been more scallops added. L had the Fish of the Day which was the Snapper on this night ( I got to try a bit of this dish as well) – the snapper came with the bones attached and was flavoured with a lemon sauce with capers. The dish that I got for my main was the Ricotta Gnocchi, Broccolini, Pangratata. The gnocchi was quite tasty and perfectly sized – some pieces were tougher than others. I enjoyed the combination of the Broccolini and Pangratata (which is breadcrumbs), together with the tangyness of the tomato. The portion sizing might look small – but it definitely fills you right up. L&P both ordered the special of the Crackling Pig Pie with Potatoes and both loved the dish! If you have a look at the pictures of these dishes – the serving sizes were massive! It was safe to say that everyone around the table were quite satisfyingly full after each of their mans. The food was homely and delicious thanks to the fresh produce and the interesting combination of flavours.

Some of us around the table decided to get dessert dishes and share them – we got the Squacquerone Panna cotta, Spiced Pear and the Hot Chocolate Pudding, Chestnut Ice Cream. We all wondered what squacquerone was – turns out it is a type of cheese – quite mild in taste and reminds me of a tangy version of mascarpone. I have never had a cheesy flavoured panna cotta before so was intrigued to see what it tasted like. This panna cotta was different to any other panna cotta I have tasted before – it had sour tang flavour to it that blended well with the vanilla bean taste of the panna cotta – put together with the spiced pear it worked effortlessly. This flavour combination is something that I am quite sure most people would never have tried – but definitely try this dish when you come to Gorski and Jones. The Hot Chocolate Pudding was another great dessert dish – warm and with a gooey chocolatey centre paired with the chestnut ice cream. A must for chocolate lovers.

Gorski and Jones is a great venue for any occasion – be it a casual or more formal affair. It presents affordable dining in typical Melbourne surrounds that is warm and refreshing. The menu has an Italian influence with modern touches and is all round delicious. Next time you are in the area – come into Gorski and Jones – you really wont regret it!

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – Refer to http://www.gorskiandjones.com/ for Breakfast (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/breakfast.pdf), Lunch (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/lunch.pdf), Dinner (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/dinner.pdf), Drinks (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/drinks.pdf), Wines (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/winelist.pdf) and Dessert (http://gorskiandjones.com/assets/pdf/dessert.pdf) menus
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Funky, Fun and Casual. Great place to just chill out and enjoy some great food amongst friends.
Standout Dish: Squacquerone Pannacota, Spiced Pear
Service: Friendly, Warm and Receptive.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://gorskiandjones.com/wordpress/
Restaurant Details and Location:
www.gorskiandjones.com
304 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tel No: 9417 7779

Opening Hours
Mondays Closed
Tuesday: 5pm to 11pm
Wednesday to Sunday: 8am to 11pm

Gorski & Jones on Urbanspoon

Gazi – Greek Hawker Style Food

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halal symbol* NOTE : The Lamb and Beef are Halal – at the time I went they couldn’t confirm that the chicken was as they couldn’t get in touch with the supplier. So just call up and check if you want to know.

There was a long awaited catchup that was in order and I heard of George Calombaris’ new restaurant – Gazi – opening up so suggested we try it. Gazi is located where The Press Club used to reside – in Exhibition Street in the Melbourne CBD – and looks totally different to what The Press Club did. For all you Press Club fans – The Press Club will be re-opening in the later part of 2013 and located where The Little Press used to be situated (next door to Gazi).

Gazi can be seen as the city sister restaurant of Hellenic Republic (located in Brunswick) and is an all day diner that represents Hellenic street food- Calombaris dubs this “Hellenic dirty food” – delivered in classic Melbourne style. Gazi is named after Calombaris; favourite Athens neighborhood and has a wow factor as you walk into the elegant cave like restaurant. The wow factor I talk about comes from the ceiling canopy of more than 3000 terracotta pots turned upside down that also provide a glow to the ceiling. Beneath this breathtaking art installation is where diners seat. There are booths along the outer edges of the restaurants, as well as seating at the bar which allows you to see the chefs moving fast paced to make each and everyone of the dishes. There is also seating throughout the rest of the restaurant in the form of wooden tables and comfortable seating.

Another great aspect to the interior is the table decor – each table has royal blue plates with a huge evil eye located in the centre – which is called  μάτι (mati) – and is a charm of sorts that according to superstition wards off bad luck. There is a description of this on the menu. Something a little special to be noted is the presence of two suitcases as decor – they are mounted on the wall facing the kitchen. They both hang open and if you take a look inside there is a date and name present – and these represent the years and the names of Calombaris’ grandfather and grandmother. The years represent the years which they made their long journey across from Greece to Australia. Such a great touch and addition to this already spectacular place.

The staff are super friendly and welcoming – starting from the time you walk into the restaurant to when you leave. They welcome you with a Greek greeting such as “Kalispera” which means Good Evening. As I only eat halal meats, I asked our waitress if any of the meats were halal – she went to ask the chef if they were and came back to inform me that the Lamb and Beef were, but they weren’t sure if the Chicken was as they couldn’t get in touch with their supplier. The fact that they went to the effort to try and contact the supplier I thought was great. Thumbs up for service for sure. They are also enthusiastic and happy to offer up opinions on what types of foods we should try or if we had enough food ordered or not.

This night there were four of us for dinner and we were located in a booth seating and as we had an early dinner booking, they needed the table back by 8:30pm. As we perused the menu’s we ordered some drinks. The drinks menu is quite impressive in itself – there are cocktails, mocktails, wine, ouzo and more to choose from. There are 6 different mocktails to choose from all of which have really interesting ingredients for a mocktail drink such as cucumber, beetroot, egg white etc. I started off with the Cucumber, Rose Water, Lime and Soda which was quite different. The Cucumber taste was quite strong and left quite a dry taste in your mouth. I also go to try the Pear, Ginger, Lemon, Egg White (sour) drink which I preferred to the previous one.

The menu is split into 7 different sections – starting off with Dips, then Ethnika Vromika which are smaller dishes,  Soulakakakia, Wood Fire Grill and Wood Fire Spit sections, Salads, Vegetables, Pulses & Grains and finally ending with Dessert. Head chef is Luke Croston and he has done great things in providing an insight into food from street vendors as well as bustling ouzerias. At Gazi the kitchen not only has a wood fire grill but a wood fired spit as well (you can check it out in the gallery above). There is a 10-course sharing menu that you can choose that costs $69 per person – and the kitchen can tailor make this to be vegetarian, pescatrarian etc – and is aptly named “Doing It Greek Style”. We did consider this option however with differing dietary requirements amongst us we decided to do our own version of the 10-course menu =p Also something to note is for Lunch on Monday to Fridays there is a “Bend Over Box” which takes you from savoury to sweet – something that I need to come back to try.

We decided t o get 5 “Ethnika Vromika” dishes – which are the Hellenic Dirty Food hawker style dishes. The Crispy Lamb Brains with charred creamed leeks, picked grapes was first to arrive. I have never had lamb brains before so I was a bit apprehensive at first to try it out – but if you don’t keep thinking that they are lamb brains then it just tastes like a lamb cutlet really. There is a crunchy golden crumb on the outside and the lamb brain mixture on the inside is smooth and flavoursome – kind of creamy tasting. The addition of the creamy leeks and the pickled grapes which adds sweetness to the dish and it really is a great flavour combination.  I actually really enjoyed this dish.

Next we got the Prawns – Braised, Olives, Capers, Onions, Garlic & Parsley (there are three pieces of prawn in this dish). The prawns are decently sized and are wood-fired showcasing its woody flavours. The prawns are nice but not a stand out dish to me.

We also ordered the Koulourakia with meze – Lamb Keftethes, Braised Baby Octopus. I was really looking forward to this dish – I am a huge Lamb Kefte fan – but I was disappointed at the size of the Keftethes. They are as small as a marble. The flavours of the Keftethes however are delicious – perfectly seasoned and cooked. This meze comes with Braised Baby Octopus, as well as some Smoked Pork Belly and some Bread to eat all these elements with. The concept of the meze is good idea and it works – I just think the Keftethes could have been bigger.

We then got the Roast Bull Horn Peppers – Chargrilled Cuttlefish,Witlof. Garlic Dressing. This dish was quite colourful and vibrant, and had the flavours to match. The cuttlefish were cooked for just the right amount and wasn’t tough at all, the garlic dressing was punchy and together with the roast bull horn peppers (which provided the smokiness) worked well together.

Lastly we got the Saganaki – Cumquat and Currant Mustard Glyko. The Saganaki – which in this case is a wedge of Kefalograviera – serves as the base and the cumquat glyko with currants is smeared over the top of it. This dish is an interesting concept putting together the sweet and cheese flavours and I think (as did everyone else on the table) that it worked. The cumquat jam provided some tanginess and the currants some extra sweetness to balance out the strong cheese flavour.

We all had heard about the souvlakis’ here and couldn’t have come to Gazi for Dinner and not have tried them out. There are four different varieties to choose from – Chicken, Beef Brisket, Pork and Crab. I ordered the Crab Souvlaki. The Souvlaki is served on pillowy marshmallow soft flat bread which encases the soft shell crab that comes with coriander, mint and mayonnaise. There are juices which flood out the bottom, but you are still left with so much flavour as you bite into these. The other souvlaki have a welcome addition of French fries which I think is a great idea. I first had French fries in my souvlaki when I visited Saudia Arabia and it was strange at first – but a welcome strangeness.

At this point we were all pretty full and wondered if we had ordered too much food. We still had the Baby Snapper from the Wood Fire Grill and the Chicken from the Wood Fire Spit to come. Together with this we ordered two Salads – Marouli – Iceberg Lettuce, Lemon, Olive Oil, Oregano and the Beetroot – Roasted, Pearl Barley, Peanut Hommus, Toursi Red Onion, Watercress. I couldn’t try the chicken from the wood fire spit – but my friends told me that it was a really great dish – the chicken was moist and the combination of the feta and the red capsicum (tyrokafteri) together with the white beans was tasty. The Baby Snapper from the Wood Fire Grill was great as well – the snapper was moist and not too dry. The fish on its own didn’t have as much flavour as I would have expected, but with the topping of chickpeas and caramelised onions it enhanced this flavour.

The Beetroot salad was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The Pearl Barley together was soft and together with the crunchy sweetness of the beetroot and the nutty hommus – presented the perfect balance of flavours. The Marouli salad was a simple flavoured salad was a great palate cleanser from all the flavours we had had.

Despite being quite full we couldn’t leave without trying out the desserts. And really everyone somehow has space for desserts. We placed our order and went with getting the Pavlova, Loukomathes, Brulee and Bombe Metaxa. It was 8:30pm at this point, and when I had made the booking was told that they would need the table back by that time. So we had to move over to the bar to have our desserts which we were totally fine with, but the waitress felt so bad and was apologising profusely (eventhough we knew we had to be out of there by a certain time) – see service is a sure winner here at Gazi. And for our troubles, she ended up not charging us for one of the desserts for being so nice about moving.

The Pavlova is a dessert with the WOW factor – it is a spherical meringue that has been shaped around a balloon and dusted with dehydrated raspberry and musk. Inside this meringue cave is ruby red grapefruit sorbet and pomegranate seeds. There are so many little surprises in this dish and it’s really a fun dish to eat. The meringue is crunchy and not too sweet. I love the addition of pomegranate seeds adding a bit of tang amongst all the sweetness. Another WOW factor dish was the Bombe Metaxa which states is for two people but really it is so big that it could easily feed more. The dish come out and looks somewhat like a white bee hive (meringue) – once it has been placed on the table, it is flambed right in front of you. Inside is Tsoureki which is Greek Bread that is similar to Brioche, layered with chocolate ice cream and chocolate wafer. The meringue on the Bombe Metaxa is soft and gooey, whereas the meringue on the pavlova is crunchy and crisp.

The Brulee comes with Date, Turkish Delight Crumble and was also delish. The brulee custard  itself was smooth and creamy and full of flavour – the addition of dates and Turkish delight further added to this. Lastly we had the Loukomathes which are served with Cocoa Nibs and Honey. These are Greek donuts and are served warm and are like eating fluffy clouds. Really delicious.

The atmosphere is buzzing and vibrant and the place is full of character. Everyone is there to have a good time at dinner and enjoy this bit of Greece right in the heart of the CBD and its so easy to do here at Gazi. It is welcome addition to the MADE establishment and to Colombaris’ repertoire. The service is fantastic and the food is really really delicious. I would definitely recommend this place to any of my friends. From the drinks to the desserts there isn’t much you can fault. And you really do need to visit to check out the terracotta pot art installation – so grab a group of friends and explore the menu.

Rating : 4.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – You can view the menu at http://gazirestaurant.com.au/menu/.
Direct link for the Dinner Menu – http://gazirestaurant.com.au/menu/pdf/lunch-dinner
Direct link for the Drinks Menu – http://gazirestaurant.com.au/storage/menu/Gazi_Beverage_List.pdf

There is a 10 course tasting menu including your choice of souvlaki for $69 per person called “Doing It Greek Style” and a
Lunch menu for $27.50 which is called “Bend Over Box” which is available Monday to Friday till 3pm – it includes dishes from savory to sweet.
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Vibrant, Casual, Fun and Enjoyable. Bring a group of friends as most of the menu is for sharing dishes – this way you can sample the menu.
Standout Dish: Souvlakis, Roast Bull Horn Peppers, The Pavlova, Lambs Brains, Beetroot – Roasted, Pearl Barley, Peanut Hommus, Toursi Red Onion, Watercress (I couldn’t pick just one – so picked one from each section of the menu)
Service: Fantastic – Friendly and very helpful if you want to know anything about the dishes or even if you want to find out if the meat is halal.
Online Booking: Yes via website – http://gazirestaurant.com.au/ Bookings are recommended but if its not your thing you can just walk in.
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://gazirestaurant.com.au/
2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Tel No: 9207 7444

Opening Hours:
Monday to Sunday: 11:30am – 11:00pm

Firechief – Chief of all Pizzas?

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It was Tuesday night catchup dinner with some of the guys from work and I picked Firechief. I had read up on this place as it had been rated quite highly in terms of having one of the best pizzas going around. I hadn’t made a booking but luckily we arrived around 6:15-6:30pm and got one of the last tables as it filled up pretty quickly after this.

Firechief comes to you from entrepreneur Paul Mathis (he also owns Coffeehead, Goldilocks Cafe to name a few) together with initiative of head pizza chef Daniel Baresse. When you walk in you think you are in a renovated fire station, however it is not. There are high ceilings completed with the centerpiece of the venue – a massive low hanging chandelier – made of timber and brass fittings. There are bright yellow metal beams which are framed around the room complete with red and white checkerboard tiles on the floor. From the main dining area you have a view of the open kitchen and you can see the chefs busily making your food for you in a flurry of activity. It looks and feels like quite a fun place to just hang out, with a family friendly atmosphere.

The pizza and the other food here is authentic to the extent where Mathis sent his head chef Gabriel Espinoza and head pizza chef Daniel Barrese to Naples to attain accreditation from Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana – an international body established to protect the heritage and tradition of the Neapolitan pizza. There are only 3 other accredited chefs in Australia and only around 370 world wide are permitted to use the DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, or controlled designation of origin) certification.

To add to this Firechief has a trio of Italian-made overs – a Valoriani volcanic-clay wood-fire over, a Moretti twin-deck, stone-based model and a modern conveyor-belt oven – each of which cook at different rates and temperatures. The differences between these ovens are written in the menu and helps to provides the patrons with information on what they want to order. I think in doing this it allows us to also learn more about the different styles and how pizzas can be prepared.

From each of the three different ovens, there is a selection of 8 different pizza’s to choose from. It is quite tough making a decision on what pizzas you want. There is a choice of the common pizzas such as Margherita (you can choose a Margherita pizza from each of the three different ovens in fact), Mexicana, Hawaiian and Vegetarian. Then there are the interesting pizza’s which consist of a mixture of different ingredients such as Egg&Bacon, Fresh Sardines, Melanzane & Peperoni and Braised Lamb just to name a few.

There were three of us at dinner, so we decided to go with 2 pizza’s and a pasta dish, as well as a side – all to share. Due to my diet constraints we got the Prawn & Pancetta pizza minus the Pancetta, the Fresh Sardines pizza and the Tagliatelle Prawn. For the sides we were tossing up between the Pea & Spinach Salad and the Warm Chickpea Salad – we settled on the Chickpea Salad. Both the pizzas we chose came from the Moretti oven – which is worked on hand & shovel, cooked on a stone floor at 360 degrees for four minutes. This is one of the most popular types of pizzas in Italy.

The pasta is made fresh everyday at Mathis’ Coffeehead. The Tagliatelle Prawn came with cherry tomatoes, chilli, garlic, fresh herbs and of course prawns. The flavours were perfectly balanced and prawns fresh. My only critique was that the pasta stuck together and was hard to separate. Indeed the pasta was made beautifully and tasted delicious. There is a total of 3 different pasta dishes that you can try out.

The Prawn Pizza was my favourite dish of the night – the base was not too thick – just the way I like it and is made as per the DOP tradition and comprises of 00-flour, yeast, salt, purified water and no additives. Healthy and delicious  – the perfect pizza! The base was chewy and had the right amount of crisp to it. The Prawn pizza consisted of fior di latte cheese on the base which is topped with garlic marinated tiger prawn cutlets and topped with a mojo dressing and completed with fresh rocket. The prawns were marinated deliciously and tasted fantastic – it is one of the yummiest prawn flavours I have had – simple yet tasty. My one gripe would be that there was too much of rocket on top of the pizza, which made the great flavours get drowned out by the pepperyness of the rocket. But overall it was a super yummy pizza.

The Fresh Sardines pizza consisted of crushed tomato, fresh sardine fillets, shallots, capers, garlic, chilli & fresh parsley. This pizza was good, but not great. The Sardines were definitely fresh, however the flavour of the sardines for all of us was too strong. Not really a fan of the major fishy taste. What did help was adding some of the natural yoghurt (from the warm chickpea salad) – it helped cut through the strong fishy flavour. The capers added a tang and the chilli and parsley completed the mix.

The Warm Sauteed Chickpea Salad was another winner- it came with lemon spinach and natural yoghurt. The chickpeas were sauteed and had just the right amount of saltiness, together with the acidity of the spinach and the yoghurt it was a great mix. The warmness of the chickpeas and together with the coldness of the yoghurt further enhanced the dish.

Even though Firechief does specialise in Pizzas but they do have a section aptly titled “plates other than pizza..” with dishes like calamari, sausage, chicken breast just to name a few.

If you are a reader of my blog, you will know I am big fan of desserts, but tonight I was way too full to try any. Having to come back to try the desserts wont be my only excuse to come back to Firechief, the pizzas and pasta dishes do that all on their own. Their techniques are world class and the end result is delicious and authentic dishes. What more could you ask for?

Rating : 3.5 Pandas
Price: $$
Menu – can be found at http://www.firechiefpizzeria.com.au/wp-content/firechief_uploads/FC_Menu-8April13-PDF.pdf
There is also a take away menu – http://www.firechiefpizzeria.com.au/wp-content/firechief_uploads/FC_Takeaway_Menu_030313-.pdf
Fullness: 100%
Atmosphere / Ambience: Fun, Family Friendly and Welcoming. Its great for a chilled out catchup with friends and family after work. It truly is a great place to just relax and enjoy great food.
Standout Dish: Prawn(&Pancetta) Pizza from the Moretti Oven
Service: Friendly and happy to help explain any dishes that you might have a question about.
Online Booking:No
Restaurant Details and Location:
http://www.firechiefpizzeria.com.au/
169 Camberwell Road, Hawthorn East
Tel No: 9831 1700

Opening Hours:
Lunch
Monday to Sunday: 12pm – 3pm
Dinner
Monday to Sunday: 5pm – Late

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