D.O.C. Pizza and Mozzarella Bar
295 Drummond Street, Carlton (map)
On Friday night I was very excited about visiting D.O.C., the restaurant which recently opened at the old Vue de Monde site on the corner of Drummond and Faraday in Carlton. I was excited:
(a) because D.O.C. is the new venture by the charming Italian Stallions who run Carlton Espresso, one of the very (very) few places on Lygon Street that serves decent food and my favourite cafe in Melbourne for pizza al taglio and piadine; but also
(b) because D.O.C. is a pizza AND mozzarella bar!
What can I say, I'm a sucker for a niche gimmick (and for good mozzarella). The NY Times reckons the world's first mozzarella bar started up in Rome a few years ago. Well, now it's Melbourne's turn, and on Friday night I went to check it out with four friends. I was not disappointed!
First up, we went for a drink across the road at Il Duce Si Diventa. Having just been paid that day, I was looking forward to spending a tidy sum on a delicious red, quite probably a pinot noir - so was less than impressed to find that the red wine list at IDSD consisted of a Penfolds Cabernet... and a Penfolds Merlot. Bah! I had a beer instead.
Purely coincidentally, I discovered that Friday was the one year anniversary since IDSD opened. The bar caused a minor furore amongst the Italian community in Melbourne when it opened due to its name ("Il Duce" was Mussolini's de facto title, and the name of the bar (very) loosly translates as "(You're not born Il Duce), you become Il Duce"). SBS Italian radio interviewed the bar owner at the time and questioned him about the bar's name, asking him whether he would think it appropriate for a German to open a bar called Hitler Si Diventa. "Look... Hitler is Hitler, and Mussolini is Mussolini" was the reply from the bar owner, who was quick to point out that he wasn't a Fascist sympathiser.
The interior decorating scheme of IDSD (described with generous understatement as "decadente" by SBS Italian radio) consists of getting enough kitsch, gilded, gaudy, over the top miscellanea to fill six houses, then cramming it all into one small bar (with strangely uninspiring results - as my friend M said, never has so little been made of so much). I DO like kitsch in most instances, but after a visit there my eyes felt like they'd been raped. It's not really my kind of place.
After one drink, we crossed the road and entered D.O.C. (no bookings, sorry).
D.O.C. stands for Denominazione d'Origine Controllata, the Italian appellation given to wines (and foods) from controlled regions. There are many DOC wines on the wine list, and plenty of D.O.P. foods (Denominazione d'Origine Protetta) including mozzarella, San Daniele prosciutto and gorgonzola.
The paper placemats have the menu printed on one side and this cute map of Italy on the other, which points out which parts of Italy the different foods on the menu come from (eg piave cheese from the Veneto, vincotto from Puglia). You can't see it in the photo above, but the map has a huge arrow pointed to the right marked "GREECE THAT WAY" :-)
Of course we HAD to start with something from the mozzarella bar section of the menu. You get your choice of a big juicy ball of either Australian Fior di Latte or D.O.P. Air Freighted Italian Buffalo Mozzarella accompanied by a little something on the side such as spek, bresaola, D.O.P. San Daniele Prosciutto, tomato with pesto etc. We chose the Italian mozzarella (natch) accompanied by White Sardinian Anchovies, which were brilliantly matched with shaved fennel and whisper-thin slices of blood orange, and some grissini (excuse the shaky photo!).
We had a big salad (insalatone) of rocket, pear, warm honey and Sardinian pecorino. Also fantastic - having the honey slightly runny was the crowning touch.
We shared three pizze amongst us - the first one I'd had and loved before in by-the-slice format at Carlton Espresso: the Pizza Cicoria with chicory, piave cheese and lemon. There are very few pizze that use lemon successfully - this is one of them!
The Pizza San Daniele, with San Marzano tomato, D.O.P. Buffalo Mozzarella and D.O.P. San Daniele Prosciutto, was super-fresh and delicious. But I think my favourite was the third one...
...the Pizza Abruzzese with porchetta, mozzarella, torre di radicchio and mostarda di frutta (an Italian fruit relish often flavoured with mustard). The saltiness of the porchetta offset the spicy bitterness of the radicchio wonderfully.
Having washed out savoury food down with a Dolcetto d'Alba (from Piemonte), we turned to the dessert menu. My curiosity was piqued by the Sweet Goats Cheese Tiramisu with Pavesini - I couldn't remember ever having goats cheese in a dessert before! We approached the dish with some trepidation, but I'm really glad we ordered it. Although it was very rich, it wasn't heavy. If you took a bit with lots of coffee in it, the nuance of goat was lost, but if you scooped up a coffee-free spoonful, the custardy flavour would yield a slightly goaty aftertaste. Unusual but nice!
Can't wait to go back there again. Let me know what you think of it if you go!