Tartufo at the Emporium will end the year with a facelift. Famous for its modern Italian cuisine, the Fortitude Valley restaurant is turning part of its spacious venue into a pizzeria. Don't go looking for ham and pineapple or any other unconventional toppings, however.
Owner Tony Percuoco hails from Naples, birthplace and spiritual home of pizza and will be doing traditional wood-fired pizza with thin bases and minimalist quality toppings just like back home. He's also applying for membership of the Association Verace Pizza Napoletana; an organisation dedicated to preserving "authentic pizza" - dictating the type of flour, number of toppings and even the temperature at which a member's pizza has to be cooked to be deemed the real deal.
A 2.5 tonne brick and mortar pizza wood-burning oven from Naples arrived in Brisbane on Wednesday morning with one of Percuoco's distant cousins, Davide, a pastry chef who has been working a pizza oven in Naples and Positano for years in charge. Percuoco brushes aside questions of the one-hatted Tartufo heading down market.
"This is not meant to cheapen Tartufo. One side of the restaurant will still be dedicated to the Tartufo a la carte menu as it is now. It's just that people are time-poor and we also get a lot of single diners from the hotel next door so they will be able to sit at the bar and have a pizza and beer and go off to the theatre or whatever they need to do. We are simply using the space we have to create another service."
The pizza oven, which operates at 400 degrees, can cook a pizza in just 90 seconds, and Percuoco says they'll have a range of around eight, as well as calzone. The residual heat from the previous night will also be used to bake the restaurant's bread every morning.
Additionally, there will be some tweaking of the decor, to remove the final French influences from the restaurant's previous life as Belle Epoch, replacing it with a more Italianate decor. Percuoco says there'll be minimal disruption to the restaurant, with the pizza oven scheduled to fire up for the first time in the next five weeks.