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Feb 5, 2012 05:06 AM

Melbourne pizza -- strong opinion

Hello out there Australia-NZ folks,

I have a pizza complaint to register...

Many folks on this board have glowingly recommended DOC Pizza and Mozzarella Bar in Melbourne.

My partner and I went this evening and were bummed to find the pizza leaden with wet, soggy, oily cheese. Beyond the cheese, the rest of the crust was heavy and doughy. The other admittedly tasty, high quality ingredients (prosciutto, porcini, etc.) did not come together into a coherent dish. They just tasted like ingredients. Looking around the restaurant, we were puzzled that it was buzzing like a beehive even while people's body language didn't express that they were loving the food (you know the way that people relax and settle into their bodies when they're feeling all yum?). I actually ate the mushrooms off most of my pizza and left the rest of the soggy stuff on the plate. Me, who eats everything!

The reason I'm bothering to post is that we had *very yummy* pizza last week at I Carusi II in St. Kilda. Cheese played an appropriate role and the crust was light and crispy. The pizza I chose -- cured ham, red onions, and chili -- had just the right proportions and the sauce had that good salty-meaty aftertaste that signals a proper pizza. It felt like a reasonable thing to eat, not fondue-on-a-plate.

In case any other Chow-visitors are headed to Melbourne, I strongly recommend I Carusi II over DOC. Perhaps someone can top I Carusi? We've got a week and a half's worth of meals to go...

And, by the way, no disrespect at all to Melbourne. The food here has been great. Standouts so far were the steak tartare at Cumulus and a fab heirloom tomato salad at Cicciolina.

Picture #1 -- DOC goo-fest
Picture #2 -- I Carusi II onion-chili pizza

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  1. DOC is my favourite because of the chewy of the chewy crust. It shouldn't have been heavy and doughy?! Maybe it was an off night? Admittedly some of their pizzas can get sloppy, however, not enough to be worried about it. Sorry that you had a bad meal there Chloe.

    If you like i carusi, try l'uccellino in yarraville or pizza mein liebe in northcote.

    16 Replies
    1. re: kersizm

      And of course there is an i Carusi in East Brunswick as well. Piazza 51 and 400 gradi in Brunswick also get good reviews from my gastro-pizza munching colleagues.

      To be fair, most of the recommendations of DOC on this board have been in response to "Where should I eat in Carlton?" as opposed to "Where is the best pizza in Melbourne?"

      1. re: mr_gimlet

        @ kersizm -- Yup, I understand the chewy crust thing. A different pizza archetype than the thin-crust thing. Totally valid.

        Thank you both for the recommendations. If we make it to L'uccellino, Pizza Mein Liebe, I Carusi, Piazza 51, or 400 Gradi -- I will post pictures here.

        Nice to have a wealth of good pizza options ;-)

        1. re: chloehk

          Keep us up to date on your food journey in Melbourne. We are headed there (fromSF) in early March to eat!

          1. re: zinfanatic

            Will do.

            Get ready for *really* high prices. Here are some examples...

            Coffee: $4
            Sandwich: $12-20
            Starter at medium-fancy resto: $15-25
            Main at medium-fancy resto: $35-45
            Wine at...: $8-15/by the glass

            Going out for a nice, but not over the top meal has been running us around $150 for 2 people. You can caveat all of that, but since we were eating out regularly in SF five months ago at places like Nopa. Similar will cost you at least 50% more here.

            We're generally lavish when it comes to spending on food, but not being acclimated to the economy here...we keep finding ourselves going, That looks good, but $50 for a *chicken pie* and $27 for a *salad*? (This was at Donovan's in St Kilda.)

            Depending on your budget, I would augment with some more casual pubby share-plates kinds of places in Fitzroy (we've been to Palookaville a couple of times -- there are probably better, but the people are really nice there). Also highly recommend booking your fancy-pants joints now if you haven't already (e.g., Attica, Cutler & Co).

            I don't know if you're planning to go to Loam. Some dishes were amazing while others were inexplicably bizarro. Seriously -- a dessert of potato foam with parsley dust, savory meringue, al dente apple slices, and rose-petal vinegar jelly! There was mutiny at our table.

            Last night I really enjoyed my $22 cocktail at Der Roam of cold rum, limes, and lapsang souchong syrup. I think Matthew Baxter is really talented, but the bar itself was a bit silly.

            You know the whole precious food vibe going on in the Mission in SF? Melbourne's got that going on x10. Seriously knocks it out of the park on the artisan-handcrafted-heirloom-locally-produced, etc., etc. front.

            You'll see what I mean ;-)

            1. re: chloehk

              Your price complaining won't do you much good with Australians - we had to put up with a 2:1 conversion rate for many years! The USD weakness at the moment makes most places expensive for Americans, and we have higher prices to reflect the wages structure. Remember that tipping is uncommon in Australia though so the price you see is what you pay.

              But you will find it expensive. Other ways to get less expensive meals are to eat Asian food, or get out of the high rental CBD and trendy suburbs to where people actually live.

              1. re: mr_gimlet

                Mr. G, "Get out of the high rental CBD and trendy suburbs to where people actually live"- and Where might that be for "tourists "that are willing to take public transport from CBD? Love all ethnic, but want good fresh seasonal food. Please give recs with in one tram or bus ride, if possible

                1. re: zinfanatic

                  I didn't mean to be patronising, BTW, it's just that rents in and around the CBD make eating very expensive.

                  I'd travel to Richmond for Vietnamese, Dandenong for Afghani and Indian, Springvale for all sorts of Asian, and Box Hill for probably HK-style roast meats or some low-end Guangdong cooking. I'd go to Preston for hand-pulled noodles but I'd stay in the CBD for sichuan at Sichuan House. And I'd go to my stomping ground of Brunswick for Lebanese or Turkish grilled meats.

                  1. re: mr_gimlet

                    Mr. Gimlet
                    I did not take it that way at all. I just wanted you to expound on your sentence with concrete suggestions. Thank you so much, Zin

                    1. re: mr_gimlet

                      Hi Mr. Gimlet,

                      Can you make a reccomendation for hand pulled noodles in Preston? I have been looking for good places.


                      1. re: egeibel

                        Noodle Kingdom, on High Street just south of the corner of Murray Road

                        Lanzhou Noodle Soup is their speciality

                    2. re: zinfanatic

                      Hi, Zinfanatic--I spotted you as a Californian from your moniker. For excellent pizza and a view of a suburb (i.e., neighborhood) where "people actually live" and shop, try Pizzeria Amici in Heidelberg. It's a downhill walk from the Heidelberg train station, on the Hurstbridge line. It's an Italian neighborhood, and the people at P.A. make true Italian pizzas, with thin crusts and fresh ingredients (and will make concessions to Ozzie tastes).

                      I sympathize with chloehk re the high prices here--for everything!

                  2. re: chloehk

                    We haven't really honed in on any "fancy" restaurants.Although we love to eat out and love food (I use to be a pastry chef long ago), I don't think we will hit Attica, or Cutler, or their kind- too $$$$$. We will be there (unfortunately) during the Big Car race. I am trying to get my head around the prices. Please tell us where else you have enjoyed. I intend to make a few reservations because of the expected crowds during the races.

                    1. re: zinfanatic

                      Try Cumulus (slightly cheaper than Cutler & Co), Anada for tapas, Journal Canteen for Italian, Pope Joan & Birdman Eating for brunch, PM 24 for the pre theatre menu which is good value.

                      1. re: mikey8811

                        Thank you, Those on on my long list! Zin

                        1. re: zinfanatic

                          Hi Zin. Hope you enjoy your stay in Melbourne. For a good dining experience I would recommend Albert Street Food Store in Brunswick. I went there for lunch last week and the most expensive main course on the menu was $34 (excluding a special at $45.) The food is contemporary Australian, but fantastic produce, and the chef is one of the better known in Australia. The wine list was very reasonably priced About a 20 minute tram ride from the CBD. Bookings essential.
                          I would also recommend Chin Chin for great Asian fusion at a reasonable price.
                          I agree with the comments regarding prices over here. Melbourne wasn't listed as one of the most expensive cities in the world without good reason. I mean eat at one of the food truck in the Northern suburbs at three times the price as what you would pay in L.A.!