14 Mar Pizza e Birra, St Kilda
As its name might suggest, Pizza e Birra takes pride in their pizza and alcohol offering, but there’s also plenty of seafood gracing the menu; a reflection of their seaside location. Chef Dario D’Agostino teamed up with Joe Codespoti to take the reins of Pizza e Birra three months ago. D’Agostino and his partner Ly Nguyen also run Long Story Short, the same cafe that has wowed Melbourne with their mesmerising hot chocolate spheres.
The restaurant is casual and filled with natural light, with impressively organised bar shelves lining the wall between the dining room and the kitchen. An outdoors alfresco dining area provides a space for diners to enjoy their meal in privacy from the public eye.
Wines are largely sourced from Italy, some coming from the family’s vineyard in Abruzzo. The St Lucia cocktail with Prosecco, Limoncello, lemon juice, honey syrup, and basil, is incredibly refreshing.
Not just for wood-fired pizza and beer, Pizza e Birra has share plates, salads and pastas to choose from too. The Cozze Gratinate are oven-baked mussels covered in tomato crumb, with a strong oregano flavour. The crumbs make them a bit hard to eat with cutlery. It’s much less messy, and easier to avoid having a bread shower, to pick the shells up with our fingers. The mussels underneath are plump and juicy, and the dish wakes up our tastebuds in preparation for the rest of the meal.
The calamari in the Insalata di Calamari is handled well. The grilled cephalopod is tender, and tasty from all that salt, garlic and chilli oil. The bitterness of the wilted radicchio brings some liveliness to the flavours, though at times it does become a bit overpowering.
Their fresher, more refined take on the Parmigiana di Melanzane results in a neat, layered stack of eggplant discs, burrata and tomato sauce. The sauce has a tanginess that adds interest to the gentler flavours and creaminess of the other ingredients. The texture of the eggplant is smooth and soft but retains some bite. A bit of natural sweetness, rather than bitterness, is brought out of the vegetable. It’s perfectly cooked, and a surprising standout.
Both red and white Napolitana pizzas are up for order. An empty tomato tin serves as a stand for our white base Porcini, which is topped with Porcini mushrooms, Italian pork sausages, ricotta, and shavings of black truffle. The pizza has a super thin base and puffy crust. Sausage introduces some extra salinity, the mushrooms are tender, and the truffle adds more earthiness to this delicious pizza.
We finally find a traditional carbonara, here served with spaghetti. Pancetta, eggs, black pepper, and aged Parmesan are used to create a tasty sauce. No cream in sight – a welcome relief from the heaviness that often accompanies creamy pasta.
Pizza e Birra’s strawberry pizza is popping up all over social media, but we decide to go for the Ferrero Roche dessert pizza instead. The base is squishier and slightly thicker than in the savoury pizza. Rather than pure Nutella, a chocolate syrup is used, and it’s not as rich and heavy. Also on the pizza are halved Ferrero Rochers, mini meringues, berries, and vanilla bean gelato. The base doesn’t taste overwhelmingly of cocoa, preventing chocolate overload (if there is such a thing) and allowing prolonged enjoyment of dessert.
In an ode to coffee-loving Melbourne, their inventive tiramisu is made using cold brew espresso, and it’s surrounded by coffee soil, espresso gel, anglaise, mini cocoa dusted meringues, and chocolate crispies. Within the chocolate-coated ‘tiramisu’ is a crisp biscuit base and different flavours of creamy mascarpone filling. We love the variety of textures and different elements of chocolate and coffee. It ties up the meal nicely.
The pizzas at Pizza e Birra are definitely top notch, but with the freshness of the ingredients and the way the kitchen handles them, don’t overlook the other dishes either.
Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest to Pizza E Birra. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and are based on my experience at the time of the visit.
Pizza E Birra
60 Fitzroy St
St Kilda, VIC, 3182
(03) 9537 3465