Where: SPQR Pizzeria, 26 Liverpool Street Melbourne
What: An excellent pizza, despite the gluten-free base
Bloat score: 0 – Living the dream
I’ve instituted an informal rule for myself where I limit my intolerance breaches to three a week. And those aren’t three days, but rather, three snacks or meals – that handful of chips that are laced with onion or garlic powder, the bowl of ramen that I allow myself to eat once every few months, the cauliflower fritters my mum makes that I can’t resist eating. By this point in the week, however, I’m usually sitting between 10 and 11 intolerance breaches because there are too many things I can’t resist eating. As I said, it’s a fairly informal rule.
I visited SPQR Pizzeria on a Monday and the desire to follow my intolerances was strong – it was too early in the week to incur my first intolerance breach – so I ordered the gluten-free version of the Armatrice, which came with a San Marzano base, guanciale, chilli and pecorino. I enquired which pizzas were good for me, and found that nearly everything could be made without onion and garlic, with the exception of the Marinara. The incredibly helpful waiter even reassured me that the tomato paste bases don’t have a trace of onion and garlic, which is rare.
The pizzas at SPQR come in two versions – red and white. The red ones have a San Marzano base and include the likes of the Armatrice that I ordered, the Margherita, and the Acciughe which comes with anchovies, olives, chilli and oregano and which I was also sorely tempted to order. The white ones have fior di latte bases, in the case of the not-even-Lacteeze-can-save-me Quattro Formaggi; truffle paste bases, in the case of the Tartufo that comes with potato, rosemary and buffalo mozzarella; and other non-tomato paste bases.
Unlike other pizza places, SPQR doesn’t have those few consolatory pasta options for strange specimens who don’t like pizza all that much (i.e. me) and the entrees only extend as far as focaccia, olives and an antipasto board, so be sure to visit only if you’re in the mood for pizza.
The pizzas arrived barely 10 minutes after us ordering them, which was bad news for that friend who was running late whom we’d pre-ordered for. Courtesy dictated that I wait ten minutes for her arrival, but after my internal timer went off without any sign of her presence, I consented to my hunger.
Those who closely follow my blog will know that guanciale is one of my favourite iterations of pork. I first had it in Rome when I visited earlier last year, and had it again at Small Axe Kitchen, which prides itself on its guanciale breakfast pasta. I enjoyed it those two times and I enjoyed it again on my SPQR pizza – forgetting my initial discontent that there was no pasta on the menu. The salty, crispy bits of guanciale coupled with the melted pecorino and the generous servings of chilli oil (this I added myself, because the pre-allocated smatterings of chilli weren’t enough to inflame my tastebuds) culminated in the best pizza I’ve had in a while. The gluten-free base was soft and buttery, causing me to feel no FOMO whatsoever toward my gluten-eating buds.
My friend who was running late eventually arrived, and in a nicety that I wouldn’t expect to see replicated in many restaurants, the waiter volunteered to have her pizza heated up so she wouldn’t have to experience a tepid one. She had ordered the regular guanciale pizza and wolfed down her newly heated up one in the time I took to finish half of mine, whether due to hunger or the quality of the pizza or both we will never know.
My other friend who ordered the potato pizza was worried that she wouldn’t be able to finish it, but found that her fears were completely unfounded.
Despite SPQR’s slightly dearer prices (I ended up paying $26 for a regular-sized pizza, including $4 for a gluten-free base), I will definitely be back. I enjoyed my pizza too much not to.
All you sadists out there will be displeased that my guanciale pizza resulted in another zero-bloat experience. Coupled with last week’s zero-bloat score, what is even the point of this blog anymore? But I have faith in my absence of willpower that will rear its head when I least expect it to, giving you all the five-bloat score that you so dearly crave.
SPQR is open from 12pm to late Monday to Friday and from 5pm to late Saturday to Sunday.