Until last year, Paolo Rosina made pizza one way – and one way only.

A dedicated student of the biga method, his dough was always mixed to a meticulous recipe. “It’s basically a pre-fermentation [method],” Rosina explains. “Roughly, all up, it takes 72 to 90 hours, so the dough is really airy, light [and] crunchy.”

Imported organic type 0 and stoneground flours are combined with water and a small amount of yeast, and stored between 17 and 18 degrees for 24 hours – which begins the fermentation process. Once rested, more flour, water and salt are added, before being set aside to ferment for a further 12 hours. The third stage is to divide the mixture into serving portions, and place them in a proving chamber for the final 24-hour stint. It’s a process.

The long fermentation means it’s also easy to digest. “When you eat it, it’s already gone,” says Rosina.

Then, holidaying last year in Rome, he discovered a new method – and everything changed. By chance, his stay overlapped with a rare masterclass from maestro panificatore (master baker) Piergiorgio Giorilli – a disciple of the autolisi or autolitico method. In this practice, yeast is added during the second resting stage, making the dough “more elastic, smooth and fluffy,” Rosina says. He assures us this small tweak makes a big difference to the final product: “It almost melts in your mouth.”

Shortly after returning to Adelaide, Rosina and wife Ilenia Scuderi began work on Blue Velvet, their first small business, which opened on Henley Beach Road this week. The pizzas at Blue Velvet come in two sizes – an eleven-inch round base designed for one person, and a larger, rectangular alla pala style. “It’s a pizza we do in Rome,” Rosina explains. “That’s the pizza for two.”

The biga dough is perfect for alla pala because “the majority of the condiment is in the middle, [so] if you do a normal dough, it can get soggy,” Rosina says. And autolisi is great for smaller pizzas, as it’s deliciously light and fluffy.

But the base is only half the meal. Rosina tops his pizzas with combinations such as mozzarella, rocket, cherry tomato, chives and Tasmanian cold-smoked salmon, and Sicilian tuna, red onion and mozzarella on a roasted yellow-capsicum sauce. There are vegetation options too, including a six-cheese pizza, and vegan options such as the Spagnola, with asparagus, sautéed leek, Swiss mushrooms and olive oil.

They’re all baked in an Italian-made Moretti electric pizza oven. Rosina prefers the compact baking chamber – he says it cooks more evenly than woodfired varieties, and captures more of the food’s aroma.

He also uses it to bake bread for Blue Velvet’s lunchtime paninis, made using the biga starter. This part of the menu isn’t quite finished, but Rosina says he’ll have five or six ready-to-go options available daily.

The Pastry Lab is Scuderi’s domain. It’s kitted out with all-new equipment, including a commercial mixer and the baking oven she’s dreamt of owning since she was eight. The shelves are full of specialist dessert moulds and shiny biscuit cutters. Scuderi calls it her “jewellery box”.

The lab is a place for Scuderi – who has been baking since she was 16 – to experiment with pasticceria salutistica (healthy patisseries). Many of her desserts use rice milk and rice flour, soy milk, olive oil and other vegetarian and vegan-friendly ingredients in place of butter, eggs and milk.

For example, the Tea-Misu – Scuderi’s take on the traditional tiramisu – replaces the coffee flavour with Dragon Chai tea, which is layered over homemade gluten-free savoiardi-style biscuits, Italian meringue and soy-milk custard. “Chai tea and soy milk is the perfect combination,” she says. Her dessert menu also includes vegan shortbread tarts made with olive oil, lemon and vanilla and filled with homemade raspberry jam; puff-pastry cannoli filled with hazelnut mousse and Chantilly cream; and more.

On top of a baking career (and a doctorate in philosophy), Scuderi is also a qualified tea sommelier. She undertook a two-month course at Geelong’s Australian Tea Masters college, studying the history and art of blending and serving tea. Blue Velvet serves 26 tea varieties – from blacks to smoky oolongs to something called Dark Chocolate Mudcake made from cacao nib, natural chocolate and caramel. Each comes with a recommended dessert pairing.

There are also two set menus for High Tea – a simple all-day option, and a more indulgent version for those who book ahead.

Scuderi and Rosina took over the venue – which is actually an old cottage – a few months back. “When [the previous tenant] moved out, it was like a war zone. We had to do a lot of work,” says Rosina. The pair engaged DesignThink (The Flying Fig, The National Wine Centre’s Wined Bar) to assist with the remodel, which saw walls removed, the bar relocated and a new open-plan kitchen installed. The walls are a deep blue, allowing the silver kitchen appliances and gold detailing behind the bar to pop.

The renovation meant they could expand on their original plans. “At the beginning we just wanted to do pizza, but [Scuderi] is a pastry chef so we had to do pastries,” Rosina says. “And then she did a tea course… so now we have to be open all day.”

Blue Velvet will be open every day for its first four weeks. After that they’ll close at least one day a week – probably Tuesdays. “We want to open on Monday nights,” Rosina says. “We work hospitality and want to go out on Monday nights, but everything is closed.”

Blue Velvet Artisan Pizza & Pastry Lab
70 Henley Beach Road, Mile End
(08) 8117 4360
Wed to Thu 12pm–9.30pm
Fri 12pm–10pm
Sat & Sun 5pm–10pm
Mon 12pm–5pm
Tue Closed