I had a chance to hit the outlying town of Gundaroo for a pizza taste-test with fellow Canberra-blogger Tex(and yes I did ride on the back of a motorcycle, a Kawasaki Z1000 to be precise, and yes it was rather thrilling and terrifying in roughly equal measure. And cold. GODDAMN but it was cold. And noisy. (I’d been advised to bring earplugs.) It didn’t help that I was wearing a borrowed helmet which jangled ominously about my chin while letting in blasts of Antarctic wind. And having said all that, I still loved it and easily see how one could get addicted to it.)
Where was I? Oh, yes. Gundaroo. Infinitesimal yet picturesque town about 40 minutes north of Canberra on Federal Highway 23.
As I discussed here, the best pizza I’ve yet eaten in Australia is at Gundaroo’s own Cork Street Cafe. Most especially their pizza topped with luscious “prosciutto” from the nearby Poacher’s Pantry. (I’m pretty sure it’s not *actual* prosciutto, it’s definitely smoked, but in any case it’s delicious.) It’s not on the menu; but the prosciutto is one of several ingredients in the Meat Lover’s pizza, which features more yummy Poacher’s Pantry-smoked meats like chicken and bacon, but tends to get soggy. Order it thusly: “A medium pizza with just sauce, cheese and prosciutto, please”. The concept of “plain” or “cheese” pizzas is heretical in these parts, and if you asked for “just prosciutto”, it’s likely you’d get an oven-baked pizza crust with meat topping–no sauce or cheese. This, from the folks who brought you beets and eggs atop pizzas.
Incidentally, for those of you who were keeping score in the Australo-pizza stakes, I have docked major points from Bredbo Pizzeria because they no longer use recognizable mozzarella on their pizza. The topping is, incredibly, the so-called “Tasty” cheese, that bland cheddar/jack/colby/one-step-up-from-Velveeta habitue of every Aussie fridge. It’s utterly unsuitable for pizza since it congeals rather too quickly into a semi-translucent, gruesomely gelatinous mound of tepid butterfat. Even their marvelously charred crusts and hot Nutella turnover (which is every bit as lustfully decadent as it sounds) cannot save this lonely yet cheerful oasis, warmed by the wood-fire oven and brightened with painted tiles.
But, back to Gundaroo. Tex agreed with me on the complete supremacy of the prosciutto pizza, as well as the previously drooled-over flourless chocolate almond cake. We noticed that the service at the CSC on that particularly cold day was positively Piscean in its flaky absent-mindedness. (FULL DISCLOSURE: birthday March 16–SC)We also agreed on the various Canberran pizza-takeout chains. Domino’s is the best, followed closely by Pizza Hut and Pizza Haven, with the pretentious and substandard Australian Pizza Kitchen bringing up the rear. And Tex should know, he’s the reigning Australian pizza authority.
I’m still, however, searching fruitlessly for a New York-style slice in Australia.