298 High Street Northcote, Victoria 3070
|Opening hours||Tue-Sat 11.30am-late|
|Features||Licensed, Cheap Eats|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9489 9498|
It's almost the anti-pizza: not wood-fired, fat, rectangular and re-heated. Melbourne's pizza landscape is so crowded with places making pizza in the Neapolitan- style – all thin, round-bottomed, and baked to order in a wood-fuelled oven – that Rome's pizza al taglio (by the slice) hardly gets a look-in.
Probably equally as well-known in New York as in its birthplace, Rome, pizza al taglio is baked in a rectangle tray, in an electric oven, then slotted into a long line of pizzas with various toppings to make a pretty patchwork of pizza. You point, they heat, you eat.
Behind the stand-and-order counter at Northcote's Lievita, owner, Luca Guerra, is doing as they do in Rome: scissoring to size and selling by weight. (In NY, it's generally pre-cut: you get what you're given.) Ordering by weight gives you the advantage – over pre-cut and no-halves-one-size Neapolitan – of being able to try a number of toppings. You're also less likely to waste food (or to stuff yourself in order not to).
There are about 12 varieties on display; which variety exactly is a lucky dip on the day. You might find a deliciously simple traditional marinara, which is chilli-and-garlic spiced tomato, with fresh grassy flecks of parsley – no seafood. There might be potato and four cheeses, or a simple potato and rosemary. Or, there might be more creative combinations, such as mortadella (pork sausage) and hummus, that channel Guerre's teacher, Gabriele Bonci.
Bonci runs Rome's Pizzarium – open since 2003, and where queues are slightly shorter than for the Vatican. He's been called the godfather and the Michelangelo of pizza. He's well-known for pizza, yes, but also for his television appearances, commanding physical presence, cookbook titled Pizza and pizza-making classes, where it's largely about the dough.
The dough at Lieivita is made with a blend of flours and minimal yeast, so it takes 72 hours to leaven, but when it does, it's relatively light. It's carefully massaged into the pan to create air pockets, so that when baked, it's full of holes. The re-heating in a 400-degree oven really crisps the base so each pizza has three tiers: a thin, crisp base, fluffy middle, and moist, flavoursome top.
Other than pizza, there are a few baked pastas, such as ricotta and spinach cannelloni, some snacky arancini and croquettes, a couple of salads for sides, and a cake – made by Guerre's mum.
Drinks, if you're eating in, include Italian wines by the glass, carafe and bottle, as well as beers, such as Peroni Red cans. Those cans decorate the functional space, along with a black-and-white wall mural of a Rome street. If, on the other hand, you've been out drinking, drop in to Lievita and grab a slab: it may change the way you think about pizza.
Do ... Use weight to your advantage to try a few types
Dish ... Pizza Marinara
Vibe ... Fast and functional