Where: Pezzo, 88 Flinders Lane
What: Pizza pockets on crack
Who: Slow Eater, Whitest Chilli Fiend
Bloat score: 2 – The belt had to be completely removed
Banish all thoughts of McCain’s cheese and bacon pizza pockets (as satisfying as they can be) because Melbourne chef Guy Grossi has opened up a casual eatery called Pezzo, which specialises in pizza pockets that house ingredients decidedly more gourmet than homebrand cheese and bacon – think calamari, polpette (meatballs) and cotoletta (veal breaded cutlet).
At Pezzo (pronounced pet-so), 48-hour fermented pizza dough is baked, halved and stuffed with a selection of fresh ingredients. This may sound familiar to you if you’ve been to Ombra Salumi Bar, the menu of which contained these very same pizza pockets, though not to the same extent that they are found in Pezzo.
Tucked away at the ‘Paris’ end of Flinders Lane with Garden State and Terra Rossa among its neighbours, Pezzo more likely than not caters to a healthy lunchtime crowd of office drones on weekdays. On the Sunday that we visited however, it was relatively empty and undisturbed. Clusters of tightly arranged tables make up the airy and bright space, with the loud and dulcet tones of Spice Girls blaring from their sound system at the relatively early hour of 11am. Service is friendly and earnest; waitstaff come up to your table to answer any queries you may have, but ordering is done at the front counter.
With my desire to completely breach my intolerances offset by an aching gut after I scoffed down Kettle chilli chips (best packet chips imho) the night before, I decided to enquire as to which pezzo had the least amount of onion and garlic in it. I was told that though the accompanying white sauce had a smidgen of garlic in it, the calamari and zucchini pezzo would be safest. I requested a gluten-free version of it, but note that this isn’t a gluten-free meal as the calamari is lightly battered in wheat flour.
Apart from the six pezzos on the regular menu and an additional special that was a grilled chicken pezzo with herb mayo, you can choose from a selection of snacks, ranging from arancini to spinach and ricotta panzerotti, and sides that include rosemary and garlic chips as well as a medley of salads. I decided to go for the solo pezzo on this occasion, so as to not upset my stomach.
Slow Eater is a proponent of the slow food movement, but not in a way that preserves the ecosystem of traditional and regional cuisine, but rather in the sheer amount of time it takes her to finish her meal – she once took four and a half hours to finish a seven-course meal we’d both committed to. She felt like something lighter and went for the vegetarian parma pezzo filled with parmigiana, eggplant, tomato and basil. Whitest Chilli Fiend, who is perhaps the sole white person in my social circle who can truly tolerate spice, went for the polpette, tomato and provolone pezzo.
My heart sank when my pezzo arrived. The pizza pocket looked too fluffy and perfect to be gluten-free, and I guessed that my waiter must have misunderstood my desire to have the calamari pezzo in a gluten-free bun, despite the fact the calamari couldn’t be made gluten-free. I am nothing if non-confrontational, so I happily started eating my pezzo, reassuring myself that I’d tried everything I could to have an intolerance-friendly meal.
The fermented dough was truly the best feature of the meal, and this is coming from a person who isn’t usually too fussed about bread. The pocket was light and pillowy but with enough structural integrity to withhold its fillings. The dollops of white sauce drizzled atop the combination of springy calamari and crisp zucchini was akin to a creamy mayo, and I was glad to see the fillings were stuffed right down to the bottom of the pizza pocket. If anything, this pezzo could have used a fresh sprig of mint or parsley to override the richness of the ingredients, but I was a fan of its home-style decadence.
True to her nature, Slow Eater was full after her first two mouthfuls and laboured over her pezzo for the next hour and a half. This isn’t to say she didn’t enjoy it – it was a lot heavier than she expected, but she enjoyed the flavours.
In direct opposition to Slow Eater, Whitest Chilli Fiend polished her pezzo off in ten minutes flat. Despite the numerous meatballs in her pezzo, Whitest Chilli Fiend was still hungry and briefly flirted with the idea of ordering something else, though she finally decided not to. Whitest Chilli Fiend is also perhaps one of the pickiest eaters I know, so her endorsement of Pezzo spoke volumes.
I was neither like Slow Eater nor Whitest Chilli Fiend – I was satisfied after my pezzo and found it to be just the right size, although who knows how much of this was affected by my two-level bloat. I didn’t feel as sick as I originally thought I would – whether this is because of the fermented pizza dough that was used or sheer good luck is anyone’s guess.
The pezzos are reasonably priced, with my amply filling calamari one the most expensive at $14.90, and the parma one the cheapest at $10.90. With coffee, sweets as well as alcoholic shakes and beverages on the menu, Pezzo could either be a casual lunch stopover or a quick dinner option. If I were to go again and properly commit to breaching my intolerances, I’d get the lamb shoulder, rosemary potatoes, parsley and onion pezzo and call it a day after.
Pezzo is open from 7am to 11pm Monday to Friday and from 11am to 11pm Saturday to Sunday.