Pizzeria Primastrada--Review (Victoria)
I have been following the tread about the paucity, or lack of, good pizzerias in Vancouver. Well, during my lifetime the same could be said about Victoria. Pizza here has been of the doughy-crust-with-heaps-of-gooey-toppings variety. Until now.
Last weekend I was walking through the Cook St. Village when I spotted an attractive wood-panelled building housing Pizza Primastrada, among other businesses. Curiosity peaked, I stopped to look at the menu and immediately became excited by what I read. They claimed to make authentic, Neapolitan pizza in a wood-burning oven.
I knew I could not hold out for too long, so last night my wife and I and a friend of ours lined up for 20-30 minutes for a table at said pizzeria. It was worth the wait.
Pizzas here features simple toppings, with no more than 3 or 4 toppings on any given pizza. Eg. Marinara has tomato, garlic, and oregano. Napoletana has tomato, garlic, oregano, and anchovies.
The pizza is cooked in a wood-burning oven; we saw a stack of cherry next to the entrance. The website claims the pizzas are cooked at 850 degrees F. The website also informs me that they use the 00 flour that has been spoken of in the Vancouver pizza thread; fresh mozzarella (although not housemade), and the "world's finest tomatoes."
The crust is thin, has a good char and is blistered. It is not crispy but rather wonderfully chewy. I have had pizza in Naples and it had a slightly different texture. It was of a similar thickness and chewiness but had a bit more of a crispy exterior. I also had a slightly better crust earlier this year at a place called Humble Pie in Phoenix, but I must say that the crust at Pizza Primastrada was very good and certainly leagues better than any other pizza I have tried in Victoria.
We tried two pizzas: the Funghi, which boasts porcini cream, roasted mushrooms, roasted onions, thyme, mozzarella, and pecorino cheese; and the Salsiccia Piccante, which was topped with fennel sausage, tomatoes, mozzarella, and roasted bell peppers. Both were very flavourful and the toppings were laid on with appropriate restraint.
The Funghi had intense mushroom flavour; the piccante was moderately spicy, but I was very impressed with the fennel sausage the restaurant used.
We had two appetizers: melanzanna and tonna, which was a flatbread with tuna/eggplant antipasto; and insalata fresca, which was a combination of fresh fennel, mint, orange, and red onion. Both appetizers tasted very fresh; the salad had very crisp, clean flavours and was nicely presented.
Two pizzas, two appetizers, and a bottle of wine came to $77 ($90 with tip), which I thought was very reasonable.
I look forward to going back to Pizzeria Primastrada and trying the rest of their pies. For those Vancouverites hankering for real pizza, you may consider crossing the pond to size up the pies at this joint. While not the best pizza I have ever had, it is certainly miles above anything else I have tried on the West Coast.
And so we went. Good thing too, as we all, adults and kids loved it from start to finish.
We had two appetizers. The gorgonzola and walnut salad was a generous portion of mixed greens, with likewise generous amount of dressing. I'm sometimes leery of mixed greens as they often seem to be hiding places for the wilty bits, but no worries here. Adults ate it up with so much concentration that we almost missed out the antipasti platter as the kids hoovered the salami, cheeses and half the olives. Lil' pigs. Luckily they left the some of the focaccia (SO's surprise favourite of the night) and of course the veg, lucky me.
We ordered 3 pies. Happily there was a pepperoni special so sons got that. Initially they were surprised at how little meat there was on it, but then they appreciated it even more, as it was actually good. We had one pie with tomato sauce, anchovies, garlic and olives. We figured out half way through that there was no cheese on it. Hooray! Italian cookbooks always go on about leaving the cheese off pasta and risotto dishes with fish, and now it appears life is consistent after all. Anyway, this was my favourite of the night as well as Mr. 4-year old's. Salty, savoury, oily garlic. The other was excellent as well, but couldn't quite compete with the crazy flavour of the previous: tomato sauce and cheese topped post-oven with arugula and prosciutto. Oh wait, it was good too. Maybe we need another visit to clear this up. Overall perfect tomato sauce, thin chewy crust, and not too much cheese. We had depressingly few slices left over for the next day, which we fought over rather unlovingly.
Gelato for dessert, which totally hit the spot. Very sweet and creamy. If I was being picky I would say the flavours didn't stand out, but after great lumps of garlickly fish (actually delicate morsels) maybe that wasn't their role.
The restaurant is nice and cozy and WARM - I love pizza places with big ovens, they always seem warmer (figuratively, but mostly literally) than all those freezing bistros out there. Nice bottle of red. Cheery server. Prompt but not speedy service. And SO got to reminisce about pool nights at the Beagle across the street. Something for everyone.
Thanks so much for the rec.
Good review, this sounds great. We have a visit to Victoria planned for spring break and we hope to try it out. If we (includes young kids) are too exhausted at the end of the day to venture far is there anywhere downtown we could get a decent if not great pizza in a nice atmosphere?
Cook St Village is a 5 minute cab ride, tops, from downtown, and that gives you access to both Primastrada and Il Posto. Right downtown, I can't think of anything really good. There is Ali Baba which is better than a kick in the pants, but nothing compared to the two in CSV. The Brickhouse has good pizza but I would not take kids there - it's a hangout for a lot of lowlifes.
There is also Pizza Pi which is new at 1412 Douglas St, but I've never been there. They hype themselves as using all natural ingredients, whatever that means.
Primastrada is essentially downtown (really only a 15-20 minute walk from central downtown Victoria).
One tip: Do NOT go there on a Friday or Saturday night! The lineups are ridiculous. Once you get seated, you may wait for up to an hour for your pizza! Stick to weeknights or lunches.