So we’ve packed up the kitchen, out of our much loved North Melbourne, into the leafy suburb of Mont Albert.
Gone are the Friday night parties, vomit left on our doorstep. No more construction noise early Saturday morning, incessent whistling of a tune I can’t recognise.
And hello to a new world. We picked Mont Albert not only because it’s quiet, but there is a great source of fresh food, with a butcher (Cornehls & Blackburn Butchers), a green grocer (Mirabella’s Premium Fruit), a few cafes, a great fish and chip shop and a few pizza restuarants. One train stop away is the Box Hill Market. Hello to a little bit more space, the ability to light my webber without getting the fire brigade around, a new BBQ.
Readers of this blog, and friends of mine know of my love for good pizza. Oskar was a staple in North Melbourne, to be conservative we would swing by each fortnight but often it was more than that. Imagine my delight when on one of our adventures down Hamiltion Street we stumbled upon a new pizza place.
It was hard at first, we both felt like we were cheating on Oskar, could we compare anything to our favourite bull boar pizza?
A little on the place. Firstly, its owned by two gents, Patrick Ciccaldo and Hugo Diaz. Now if the name Ciccaldo sounds familiar it’s because they run an award winning italian joint (Cafe Bedda) in Northcote. There its strictly sicilian food while Cantina has branched to the whole of Italy. To be honest, thank god. As much as we all love Sicilian food, there is a bloody lot of Italy out of Sicily (says this man with Northern Italian heritage).
Now Patrick is a local, which for a place with as few restuarants as Mont Albert / Surrey Hills, I think is important. There is a massive “cook at home” feel about the area, posibly the social economics of the joint, the demographics? Hey, this is a food blog, I have no idea why.
Regardless, they’ve been open for around 8 months, and already have built a small following based on great pizza, a great menu, awesome drinks list and a top little venue.
The guys obviously share a lot of the produce they get in for Cafe Bedda with Cantina. The Sicilian white anchovies, marinated in vinegar and olive oil tasted like no other. A really light fragrance of the sea, clean and fresh. Rob our waiter suggested a beer, another import from Sicily but unfortunatly not available on our supermarket shelves. Delicious.
Finally we picked a few pizzas. We started with a Regina (cherry tomato, mozzarella, basil) and a Signor Hugo (porcini mushroom with gorgonzola, mozzarella and parmesan).
Now I’m not going to try and tell you, the reader, what makes a good pizza. Actually, I am. Cantina. Bloody good pizza.
First the base. Now Oskar has a very thin base. That crispy crackly base. We loved it. Cantina has a slightly different base, a little more dough but it’s definatly a thin base that puffs up once put into their wood fired pizza oven. Its delicious. Its their own special recipe, and is one of the reasons they made the top 10 pizzas in Melbourne. The toppings were great, the porcini mushrooms are not of the dried and reconstituted variety but frozen and shipped over from? Oh, probably Sicily. The tomato base on the Regina pizza has a perfect subtle taste, with those tiny hints of basil throught it. Brilliant sparks of the gorgonzola pizza picked themselves up and slapped me gently in the face as I stuffed in more pizza. More pizza.
Big pizzas too. I’m no expert on “pan size” but they made Oskar blush. But, who’s comparing hey?
And finally, the often forgotten (and mainly because there is never any room) desert.
Now I’ve developed a love for affogato. I know, its not really a stretch on the kitchen, but for me I can’t think of a better finish to the meal. Strange really, because I don’t pretend to be Italian enough to stand around in coffee bars and knock back espresso’s however the combination of the vanilla gelato, the little coffee and just a little bit more frangelico is Barry White sorta smooth. Cantina did a bloody good job. Nothing fancy, just as I ordered it.
Service was friendly throughout, regularly topping me up on whatever the beer was.
Can I have ONE whinge? They need something on the walls. The red bricks look sensational but they really don’t soak up too much noise. Its a little loud in there.
Otherwise, if your over here on the evil side of the yarra, check it out!
Cantina Centrale is located on Hamilton Street, Mont Albert.