Top-pedigree Melbourne pizzeria SPQR is poised to emerge from the pandemic with a new restaurant in leafy Mont Albert and a huge production space in Coburg to keep its pizza base business growing.
Restaurateur David Mackintosh, who also owns Pope Joan, Lee Ho Fook and Ides, opened the first SPQR in the city's theatre district in 2016 and added a Docklands outpost in 2019.
But when both ends of the CBD lost the flood of workers and visitors that kept the restaurants afloat, Mackintosh quickly converted the Docklands kitchen into a production space for high-quality pizza bases that people could top and cook at home. From Scratch Dough was born.
"It's exactly the same dough as what's used in the restaurant," says Mackintosh, meaning it's made with a 20-year-old mother starter and left to ferment for 48 hours to produce beautifully airy yet chewy crusts.
Currently stocked by almost 50 retailers, the pizza bases will be made from a new 350-square-metre factory in Coburg before year's end.
What began as a pandemic pivot to keep his international staff employed is set to be the driver of SPQR's future expansion. The pizza base business will support new restaurants, with the factory able to supply high volumes of dough to venues.
The first site to test the concept will be a brick and stained glass-fronted building on a charming Mont Albert shopping strip. Along with the line-up of simple red and white pizzas that fans already know, SPQR Cucina will also offer pasta and entrees such as calamari fritti, thanks to a full kitchen (and wood oven) that came with the site, formerly Cantina Centrale.
The venue will seat 20 to 30 people upstairs and 40 downstairs, and has a parklet outside that will be well used when the venue opens in late spring or early summer.