103 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne (map)
I'm currently working on secondment well out of the city, so imagine my frustration when my friend Miss O emailed me on Thursday to let me know that I Carusi founder Pietro Barbagallo's new pizzeria on the ground floor of her building had finally opened - during my absence!! Luckily, the family wanted to go out for pizza on Cup Eve and was having trouble finding a decent pizzeria that was open, so I suggested we head into town to check it out.
It's called Barbagallo, and it occupies the Lonsdale Street building that Luke Mangan had previously leased for his Salt Grill Melbourne that never was, a couple of doors down from Seamstress. Barbagallo opened for family and friends on Thursday, and to the public on Friday. Both a trattoria and a pizzeria, it has a menu featuring antipasti, primi (pasta), pizze and an interesting-sounding brodetto di pesce - a seafood broth with tomato and shellfish.
We started with a few antipasti to share: burrata with fresh tomato and bruschetta ($14) and bresaola served the traditional way with rocket and Grana Padano (also $14). I loved them both, though the burrata needed a good pinch of sea salt.
I chose the pizza with pork and fennel salsiccia, mozzarella, tomato, onion and chilli ($18). Really nice - quality mozzarella, a substantial chilli kick and sausage flecked with fennel seeds. Dad had the pizza ai funghi: asiago cheese, enoki, shitake and king oyster mushrooms ($19). Surprising to see so many Asian mushrooms on an Italian pizza, but they tasted lovely.
Birdie ordered the pizza with tomato, mozzarella, rocket and prosciutto ($18). She felt (and we agreed) that the prosciutto had been sliced too thickly, so she ditched half of the slices. Mum and Ale (the Italian exchange student currently staying with them) each ordered the pizza with taleggio and asparagus ($18), which was sensational. Love that the asparagus spears were kept long!
The pizze were all in the $16-$21 range (Ladro prices), but we - and the bona fide Italian dining with us - felt the quality of the pizze (the dough especially) justified the prices. We were less impressed however at being charged $8.50 per skinny glass of Trumer Pils or stubbie of Peroni.
We did love the calzoncino for dessert filled with dark, milk and white Belgian chocolate ($11) though.
An unfortunate incident with the bill (their credit card machine was out of order all evening but they neglected to inform us until we tried to pay by card, and then they wouldn't process the card manually, leaving Dad with no choice but to stomp down to the 7-11 to get $250 cash out - "They should've told us it was cash only as they were seating us!" he muttered tetchily) put a slight damper on our evening, which is a shame given how much we'd enjoyed the food.
One last thing: this is not a place to bring an elderly relative who is hard of hearing, as the dimensions of the space and the hard surfaces make it noticeably noisy, even with only six tables filled (though to be fair one of those tables had four excited kids on it). "Don't you think it's loud, Ale?" we asked. She grinned "No, in Italy it would be much louder in a pizzeria - you would not be able to hear each other speak!"