Fab: Non Solo Pasta cafe in Docklands. Photo: Eddie Jim
"OUR OFFICE IS MOVING TO the Docklands,'' my mate said, his face full of horror. Many an office worker has been gripped by such fear, especially in the early ''Darklands'' days, so chin-chin to Non Solo Pasta, a sharp, clever pizzeria-cafe-restaurant that's adding real pizazz to this corporate heartland.
It's the work of Remo Nicolini, a man whose name is synonymous with ''pizza''. After selling his successful city pizzerias +39 and Espressino last year, he is undertaking a spot of empire-building. NSP is step one, Itali.co opened in St Kilda last month and another Itali.co is due to start trading in Sorrento in two weeks.
NSP is fab, big enough to hold the hordes - with seating for about 110 - and a rustic-meets-modern vibe. A vertical garden of mothers-in-law tongues lick upwards, arty lampshades encircle hanging globes, and jars of Nutella and tinned tomatoes stand at the ready.
Non Solo Pasta's Bunga Bunga pizza. Photo: Eddie Jim
The words ''Pizza is sexy'' are scrawled on the chalkboard; it is, too, when it comes from here. The Bunga Bunga - an expression made notorious by former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi to describe his (alleged) saucy ''sex parties'' - is the signature. It's one of the best pizzas I've eaten in a while, a just-blackened thin base with a light and airy crust, topped with summery San Marzano passata, chunks of Berkshire pork sausage, fiore di latte, porcini mushrooms, parmesan and parsley.
Nicolini says the bases are made ''the way dad taught me'' - uncomplicated and not overworked. ''Dad opened the first pizzeria in the Gold Coast, in 1969, and it's still there today,'' says Nicolini, who grew up in Surfers Paradise before moving to Italy as a child.
Pesto linguine is on the right side of al dente, with a generous coating on each strand and shelled prawns hiding in the coils.
The menu is pitched just right. Desk-scoffers can choose from good focaccia, panino and piadina (maybe zucchini, smoked mozzarella and romesco sauce, or leg ham and asiago cheese) and meal-sized salads, such as farro or grilled chicken.
For the early birds, simple breakfasts include muesli and organic yoghurt, and panini with free-range eggs and pancetta. And for that farewell lunch or end-of-year Christmas bash, the smart drinks list features all-Italian wines, plus lemon granita, Peroni on tap and shots of grappa.
The whole premise, says Nicolini, is artisan food, fast. And NSP gets it: you don't want to be waiting for a margherita while your 2pm meeting waits for you.
Do … Kick back on Friday for drinks and pizza when NSP stays open late.
Don't … Ask to split the bill.
Dish … Bunga Bunga pizza, named after Silvio Berlusconi's frolics.
Vibe … Fun, authentic, buzzy.
- (03) 9620 1110
- Cuisine - Italian
- Prices - Breakfasts, $3-$9.50; focaccia, $9-$10.50; pizzas, $13-$18; desserts, $5-$14.50
- Features - Licensed, Accepts bookings, Outdoor seating, Vegetarian friendly
- Owners - Remo Nicolini
- Cards accepted - AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, EFTPOS
- Opening Hours - Mon-Thurs, 7am-5pm; Fri, 7am-10pm
- Seats - 110
- Other Branches - Itali.co, 173 Barkly Street, St Kilda; , Itali.co, to open next week in Sorrento
- Author - Nina Rousseau