97 Whitehorse Road Balwyn, Victoria 3103
|Opening hours||Daily 5-10pm|
|Features||Vegetarian friendly, Gluten-free options, BYO|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9817 1000|
At the risk of sounding like an alcoholic, Postino isn't licensed. Balwyn is a dry area, but it'd been one of those weeks and I'd forgotten to ask about BYO, then Jimmy Watsons Cellars - a hop down the way - was closed, so it was game on with the chinotto and tap water.
"We have to go to a poll," says Alex Booth, co-owner of the five-week old pizzeria that has been not so much embraced as bear-hugged by Balwyn locals.
About 1500 of them will cast their votes at the end of this month to determine whether Postino will score its license - vote below the line for the Alcohol Enthusiasts Party!
In the kitchen the all-Italian crew come from Naples, Florence and Turin. "One of the guys has been making pizza since he was 12 years old in Naples. He has a pizza tattooed on his arm," Booth says of the skull inkwork that has pizza paddles as crossbones and a slice of pizza in the eye-socket. Hardcore.
It's very good pizza - a light, thin base with zero sog-factor, a fluffy crust, charred just right in the electric stone deck oven that mimics its wood-fired cousin. Gluten-free bases are brought in from Carlton.
On top go classics - San Daniele proscuitto, buffalo mozzarella, and rocket pesto. Pork and fennel sausage (from Jonathan's) are given a spin with interloper slices of roasted apple, mozzarella and sage, and capers jazz up the napoletana, splayed with anchovies and olives.
There's a ripper salad, a quite generous tumble of cos, cucumber, sheer red onion, chunks of feta and chilli adding bursts of pow that really cut through the cheesy carbs.
Rosemary sprigs hang in the white-tiled kitchen, used to great effect on hot, salty ciabatta - dunk some in the fresh cow's milk ricotta and, ahh, you've backed a winner.
It's simple food here - no tricks - which was exactly the plan, Booth says.
He's co-owner with James Ball and Mark Pearce of Treat Catering in Armadale, and Rainer Paterson, a local who reckons it used to be called "boring Balwyn". They gutted a former antiques store, transforming the four-roomed shopfront into a fresh neighbourhood local. Now, mini pots of basil pretty up the tables, the red door is a natty touch and bentwood chairs and polished concrete complete the look.
Kerbside trading kicks off soon - lucky, because Postino has been booked out every weekend since it opened - and stay tuned for the drinks vote. Let's hope it's not a recount.
Do … make a booking; Postino is open tonight.
Don't … forget to have a scoop of gelato on the way out.
Dishes … pizza, including napoletana.
Vibe … new neighbourhood local.