Let’s clear one thing up straight away- when I go out to eat, I do not go for the food.
Sure, a big bowl of delicious organic pasta or a salad with impossible ingredient names is a good time, but I am a student and honestly, mi goreng tastes pretty good to me too. When I go out to eat, I go for the experience– I want to leave feeling a warm glow in my very full, very happy tum, rosy from wine and counting down the days until I go back.
Luckily, Pizzateca has both the food and the experience sorted. The hype that they’ve stirred up since opening mid-last year is not only worth it’s weight in gold, it’s also utterly justified.
Having been on Instagram over the last six months, I’m well aware that the place gets busy- full-to-the-brim with winer tourers from town and languishing locals, and I was stoked to get a table for three on a saturday night when I only called the day before.
Getting there was easy, because two of the three of us were born and bred in McLaren Vale, though the tucked-away nature of the place might mean leaving a little hunting room if you were not. I reckon finding your way from the road (the carpark was full- I told you they get busy) in the dark was all part of the adventure, though my friend Loretta mightn’t have agreed with sodden shoes from stepping (splash!) into a puddle- so be aware that there might be a trek, and you’ll probably want to whip out a phone torch or two to make it.
When we got inside, we were greeted by a lovely woman who just radiated warmth. She kind of had that friends-mum vibe, the one that pops her head in to check if you’re hungry or ask how your parents are. We were seated outside, and hostess-mum-lady squeezed my arm reassuringly when she promised it’d be warm for all the blinds and the heaters. Instant comfort.
We met our waiter next, and while I didn’t catch his name he was a dead ringer for Matty J- mate, if you’re reading this, surely there’s a bit of a side-hustle to be had there. He was super chilled out and friendly, and didn’t judge us for not sussing out the menu for ages or for ordering half of the thing when we did. You rock, Matty J.
Drinks were as delicious as you expect them to be, in the heart of the world’s best (biased, ahem) wine region. Loretta and Tash slurped down some red, and I convinced myself it was the perfect night for a Peach Bellini topped with ice. It was about ten degrees outside of those blinds, but they kept me warm enough that I really enjoyed it. Not too sweet, appropriately alcoholic for a saturday night wind-down dinner and a pretty pale pink- check, check, check!
The food started rolling out with surprise promptness- a cheeky peek inside saw that there were at least a dozen people in Pizzateca shirts doing their thing and doing it well- and all of it was incredible. We couldn’t find garlic bread on the menu (a quick Google search tells me it’s not actually Italian, and by this point we were more than comfortable being left in the restaurant’s capable hands) and were thrilled when the Schiacciata was just as good- a crispy, thin pizza base topped with garlic, rosemary, olive oil and salt and not a thing more that had us licking our fingers. Tartufo, a much-beloved revival on the menu was as rich and as earthy as you’d imagine a pizza covered with mushrooms and three kinds of truffle (salt, oil and black pesto) to be, and Pomodoro was the winner for us all.
Sugo made by the Mitolto family from South Australian heirloom tomatoes, smooth and stretchy fior de latte, baby roma, fresh garlic and young basil were drizzled with EVO atop a hand-stretched base. It sounds like something from a fancy-pants cooking show, but really it’s just the best pizza you might ever have outside of Naples. Wow.
As if we weren’t stuffed enough at this point, Matty J came back and recommended Nonna Anna Mitolo’s tiramisu for each of us, which I foolishly turned down. Lucky for me Tash isn’t wait immune to my flailing fork and begging eyes and I managed to eat a bit of hers, which was an absolute masterpiece. We were also given small glasses of Limoncello as digestifs- I’d never had a digestif up until that point, but it was so sweet, so tart and so intoxicatingly alcoholic that it seemed like the most perfect end to a meal imaginable. It was also on the house- another example of the care that Pizzateca put into making their guests feel welcome- and we were told that the older members of the family who’d put a lot of time and effort into the brew would be disappointed if we didn’t indulge in it. True that.
The experience at Pizzateca goes far beyond the food. It extends to the hospitality that every italian restaurant- in fact, every restaurant at all- might aspire to. It extends to the beautiful toilets (really, it’s something you notice) and the filtered water that appears in front of you before you ask. It works its way out to the atmosphere, long tables of twenty-somethings and extended families and small tables of old friends getting teary over their second bottle of vino, soundtracked by an excellent playlist floating out from the speakers. It’s something you can feel the second you walk in the door and are entranced by clever people spinning balls of dough and spinning disks in the wood-oven, and it’s a warmth you can’t waite shake even days later.
Pizzateca is a gorgeous example of the kind of meal, the kind of soul-food experience that is absolutely worth going out for.