mamster's grub shack - Aussie Pizza

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A Large Potato, To Go
by David Dyte

January 30, 2000

The Aussie?

Italian immigrants first arrived in Australia in large numbers during the 1950s, as cheap labour for the Snowy River hydroelectric dam. Unsurprisingly, since Australia is a charming country with a wonderful climate, many stayed. And many of those plied their trade as pizza chefs, beginning one of the world's great culinary traditions.

Brave Combo

My favorite pizza in Seattle is the same as everybody else's: Pagliacci. There's nothing unique about it, and they don't offer the Banarama (although the Pear Primo is good), but they make a good thin-crust pie with plenty of toppings. They feature four choices by the slice each day: cheese, pepperoni, and two rotating "combo" or "primo" pies which vary from simple sausage and onion to things like the chicken rosemary primo or goat cheese primo.

One day I was at the counter with Laurie getting slices, and one of their daily specials was Hawaiian. I'm not a fan of canadian bacon on pizza, but I said to Laurie, "You know what would be good that they never have here? Pepperoni and pineapple."

The next day I was walking by Pagliacci and peeked in the window as I often do to see what they were offering that day. (Even if I've already eaten, I can never resist a slice of The Works Primo: pepperoni, sausage, onion, green pepper, mushroom, and olive.) And there it was, glistening behind the sneeze guard: a pepperoni and pineapple pie. Naturally I stormed in, ordered a slice, and asked whether it was my comment that prompted the unique selection.

"Not that I know of," said the counter guy, putting my slice in the mini-oven. Well, credit or no credit, the slice was delicious.


Readers from the USA may proudly point to a pizza heritage which has swept the world, but it's not without modification elsewhere. I don't believe there is a single pizza place in Australia by the name of Ray's, for example. Nor have I ever seen a so-called pepperoni pizza. Perhaps that is what we'd call a Mexican. Or an Americana. Or something. One thing's for sure- the menus are a good deal more packed with ingredients. The idea of a tomato-and- cheese single slice being standard fare is nonexistent. The standard pizza in Australia is the supreme. Picture an American supreme pizza on steroids. Tomato, cheese, mushrooms, ham, hot salami, green pepper, onion, anchovies, pineapple, shrimp, garlic, beef, red pepper, mild salami, and pretty much everything else available. Then there's the super supreme - add chicken, sardines, broccoli, potato, spinach, oysters, or whatever else the chef may have forgotten first time around.

You get the idea - more ingredients, better pizza.

In fact, greed is good generally. One of my happiest experiences on a trip to New York last Spring was finding Koronet Pizza, near Columbia University. Not even the greatest Australian trencherman could complain about the fare at Koronet. Sure, it lacks the million ingredients, but the sheer size (a single slice is the size of a large pie elsewhere) is nothing short of awesome. On the more gourmet side, Zachary's at Berkeley serves a magnificent vegetarian Chicago style pizza, which is impossible to finish, yet you must. You fight against the pain just to get more of the taste. Go there. Now.

The best Aussie experience to equal these stomach exploding items is, oddly, at the local version of Pizza Hut. Back in 1990 or so, several franchises came up with the idea of experimenting with new pizza ideas on the customers. In order to encourage folks to try their new (and near lethal) seafood pizza (I swear it moves. Really.), they began Tuesday night All You Can Eat Night. The catch? You only got the experimental pizza. Still, the people came. Before long, Tuesday nights were dragging in more income than the rest of the week combined. If there's one thing an Aussie pizza fan is up for, it's the challenge of the phrase "All You Can Eat." Nowadays, All You Can Eat Night is every night, and I can't remember the last time I actually ordered a menu pizza at the Hut. Fortunately, regular pizzas (including the omnipresent supreme) are now included.

Don't take my word for it, though - you should make your own Australian style pizza and enjoy the fun. Take a thin crispy crust, a large amount of tomato paste and mozzarella, and go for it. Herewith four of my favourites from La Caseta, my former local, you can try for yourself:

Potato: tomato, cheese, potato chunks, bacon, garlic, parsley. Two slices keeps you fed for days, if not weeks.

Bolognese: tomato, meatballs, onions, spaghetti, cheese. Yes, really.

Aussie: tomato, cheese, egg, ham, bacon. I don't know whose idea it was to put egg on a pizza, or if they were Australian or not, but it's the Aussie and it works.

Bananarama: tomato, cheese, square ham, bananas, cinnamon. I'm not lying. Call La Caseta and ask: +61 39 579 1700. [HOME]

David Dyte, former Australian, is now New York City's premier connoisseur of vegemite and cricket (the game, not the food).

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