Where: Shop 225, 225 Melville Road Pascoe Vale South
What: An Italian haven for coeliacs and vegans alike
Who: Gingko Leaf Girl, Publishing Whisperer
Bloat score: 1 – Had to loosen my belt a notch
Publishing Whisperer had been singing the praises of Italian restaurant Shop 225 for the longest time and I trust her taste – we were the only ones to like an exquisite Chinese bolognese pizza the last time we dined in a group – so I found myself traipsing (read: bribing Mr Whatever Floats Your Bloat to drive me) to Pascoe Vale South one sunny Saturday afternoon. Publishing Whisperer and I were escorted to a table outside by the friendliest waitstaff as we waited for Gingko Leaf Girl, who was making the south-to-north trek on the 58.
The name of Shop 225, sitting as it so happens on 225 Melville Road, is the only unimaginative thing about it. Its menu of wood-fired pizzas range from the more familiar margherita, quattro formaggi (four cheese) and capricciosa to the patatina (potatoes with roasted capsicum and goat’s cheese) and il dottore (a theatrical stock character which, in Shop 225’s pizza of the same name, features Calabrian sausage and porcini mushrooms). Pizzas are vegan and gluten-free upon request, with the gluten-free pizzas suitable for coeliacs – Shop 225 has two separate cooking zones to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination. The ultimate feather in its cap is that Shop 225 is the first pizzeria in the country to be accredited by Coeliac Australia.
The pasta menu covers off well-known bases – carbonara, bolognese and lasagne give way to a housemade spinach agnolotti, a squid ink black fettucine and, my perennial favourite, broccoli orecchiette with garlic, chilli and pecorino. Pastas are available in the gluten-free choices of casarecce, spaghetti and gnocchi and many of the traditional meat-heavy pastas, from the carbonara to the meat ragu lasagne, can be customised to be vegan – Shop 225 owners Lorenzo Tron and Roberto Davoli have created vegan versions of stracciatella, scamorza, mozzarella and cream cheese. You could say Shop 225 is the OG Red Sparrow Pizza.
It’d be a waste to come to a place like Shop 225 and contravene my intolerances, but luckily the only thing I wanted was the one thing I could have: the broccoli, garlic, chilli and pecorino orecchiette ($21 plus $4 for gluten-free pasta). I merely substituted the orecchiette with gluten-free casarecce, one of my favourite pastas of all time.
Seeing we were at a wood-fired pizza specialist, Gingko Leaf Girl and Publishing Whisperer decided to split a pizza between them – the parma pizza ($22), which unlike the national Australian dish, featured prosciutto, roquette and grana padano. Publishing Whisperer’s usual go-to pizza order is either the verde with its eggplant and smoked scamorza or the truffle oil and mushroom number zio pino, but she wanted to try something different.
Before our mains, we decided to order a few entrées and I threw caution to the wind with these (i.e. I didn’t follow my intolerances).
Gingko Leaf Girl took a particular shine to the carpaccio ($17). In Shop 225’s version, the thinly sliced cured beef was served in an artful display topped with beetroot, artichokes and pickled daikon – the addition of daikon added an interesting East Asian flair to the entire dish and Gingko Leaf Girl remarked favourably on the “whisper thin” texture of the carpaccio. Both she and Publishing Whisperer noted that there were a few too many pickled vegetables, so much so that by the end, we were just munching on bits of pickled vegetables by themselves.
I can never go past a rice ball that’s within 50 feet of me so we also ordered the arancini ($15). The menu description simply said “traditional Sicilian rice ball” but to our pleasant surprise, they turned out to be mushroom arancini. Apart from the fare of my good friend Solo Arancini who tours metropolitan and regional Victorian markets, these arancini were the best I’ve tried in a while – small and contained, the mushroom-peppered rice encrusted in crisp breadcrumbs were like mini umami bombs, particularly when dipped in the luscious aioli. The citrus-laced aioli was creamy with a nice zing – we enquired to find out what was in it, but the only ingredient the waitstaff revealed was lemon.
My mountain of broccoli pasta arrived soon after, much to my delight. I always compare every broccoli pasta I have to the first one I ever had at Tipo 00 – a broccolini, anchovy, garlic and chilli number. Because Shop 225’s one was vegetarian, it didn’t have the anchovies of my Tipo 00 favourite and I missed that unparalleled salty undertone. Nevertheless, this pasta was good in an entirely different way. It tasted extremely homestyle – big chunks of broccoli were interspersed with the al dente tubes of casarecce and scattered with discernible shavings of sharp pecorino. There was a velvety sauce coating the casarecce, which I suspect was cream-based but can’t be 100% sure of due to Shop 225’s ingenious ways around dairy-free alternatives. As is my habit, I added a few generous swigs of Shop 225’s housemade chilli oil into my bowl.
Gingko Leaf Girl and Publishing Whisperer both loved their pizza. Gingko Leaf Girl particularly adored the 72-hour-rested dough, noting that it was simultaneously crusty and soft with the lightly charred edges so reminiscent of wood-fired pizza bases and a sturdy middle that retained its form underneath the weight of its toppings.
However, they were divided when it came to the accompanying radicchio salad ($12) they ordered where red chicory was served with orange, gorgonzola, cashew nuts and baby fennel in a citrus glaze dressing. I tapped out early because I am not a fan of gorgonzola (yet another thing I don’t like, on top of Szechuan peppercorns and raisins – you could almost call me picky) but Publishing Whisperer had different concerns altogether; she didn’t think the bitterness of the chicory was offset enough by the citrus dressing and expected more delicate flavours. Gingko Leaf Girl, however, was a fan of the strong flavours.
Shop 225 is a delightful local – it’s pared back, unhurried and unpretentious, with food that caters to every dietary requirement without compromising on flavour or texture or alienating non-intolerance addled folk. It’s the perfect place to while away a few hours, particularly if you, like us, take the opportunity after to make the short 15-minute walk to Miinot Gelato, Pascoe Vale South’s answer to Spring Street Grocer. Though, if you’re vegan and a fan of Nutella you may do well to stay at Shop 225 – they make their own vegan chocolate hazelnut spread and slather it on a pizza base topped with strawberries and icing sugar.
Shop 225 is open Monday to Thursday from 5pm to 9.30pm and Friday to Sunday from 11.30am to 9.30pm.