Filling the gap between the three-cheese-stuffed-crust home delivery and full-service pizzeria models is Melt, a "fast-casual" outlet mixing slow-food principles with snappy service. Pizzas take only two minutes to cook, arriving near cracker-crisp and steaming hot from the wood-fired oven.
Choose from eight classic topping combinations, ranging from $10-$16, or construct your own custom pizza. A custom 11-inch pizza begins at $9 for the base, with vegetable, protein and cheese toppings an additional $1-$3 per item. Using a down-the-line ordering system similar to the Subway sandwiches model (trust us on this one, it's much better) you order and pay at the counter, choosing from more than 30 locally-sourced, free-range toppings as you go.
The result is a personalised pizza that's as simple or extravagant as you please. We put a classic margherita to the test. A thin but toothsome crust arrives promptly as promised with thick tomato (San Marzano plum tomatoes from southern Italy are chosen for their sweet flavour), stringy melted mozzarella and a smattering of fresh basil leaves. We recommend the classic fold-and-stuff technique; no cutlery needed.
A white tiled, brick walled dining room offers high-top wooden tables and there's a colourful courtyard out back. High turnover is clearly the intention, but you won't be uncomfortable while you eat in.
The super fast two-minute cooking time comes from a wood-fired, stone based oven that reaches temperatures of up to 400C, aided by a cavaletto wood stacking system; iron bark (chosen for its density and high burning temperature) stands in a cast iron frame sending flames into the centre of the oven for an even heat.
The business model may be American inspired, but the pizza is straight out of Italy. Owners Dan and Elise Gold spent a month studying the strict doctrine of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the Neapolitan high power of pizza. Here they picked up their dough recipe - no oil or sugar, just 00 flour, yeast, salt and water.
Dan Gold says it all starts at the base, hand stretching the dough from ball to disk so to create a chewy, delicate crust. "Napoli-style pizza must have a very thin base, it must be slightly raised at the edges and have a slightly charred crust, a flavour that only comes from a wood fire," Gold says.
The cooks at Melt rotate each pizza four times during the 120 second cooking cycle to ensure a perfect balance of chewy and crisp that's near impossible to achieve with a conventional oven.
"Twenty or thirty years ago the novelty was having a hot pizza delivered to your door in under an hour," Gold says.
"Now we're more conscious of what we are actually eating."
Good times ahead for (fast) gourmet pizza.
Melt, 171 Chapel Street, Windsor, 1300 11 6358, melt.com.au