The team behind McLaren Vale’s immensely popular “Oztalian” pizza joint Pizzateca is opening a new spot in the CBD. But don’t expect Pizzateca 2.0.
“We weren’t interested in doing what we’re doing there, here, and calling it something else,” says Pizzateca’s chief pizzaiolo, Tony Mitolo. Madre, his soon-to-open pizzeria in the former Feliciano site on Gilbert Street, will serve dishes he’s “never seen here but had the opportunity to taste in Naples”. Such as pizza made with seawater.
“As far as we know we’re the first ones [doing this] in the Southern Hemisphere,” he tells us. We couldn’t verify that, but Madre is one of only a few restaurants in the world using this method.
Naples native Ettore Bertonati, who has worked the oven at Pizzateca and Etica, will head the kitchen of what he calls a “very traditional Neapolitan pizzeria”. “Before the First World War, pizza in Naples was made with seawater because salt was so expensive,” says Bertonati.
The recipe for conventional dough calls for flour, yeast and 55 to 60 grams of salt per litre of water, he says. A litre of seawater has roughly 35 grams, which makes for a more “natural and nutritious” product, he adds. The result is said to be lighter, softer, and easier to digest.
Madre’s base combines just flour, seawater, and a sourdough starter (aka The Mother) Bertonati has been feeding weekly since he moved to Australia in 2012. “It’s like my baby,” he says. It’s not as simple as a trip to Glenelg with a big bucket. As Mitolo learned, “Taking water from the ocean is highly illegal”. Instead they’re importing it from Italy.
Keeping with tradition, toppings will be similar to (but more minimal than) those at Pizzateca. There’ll also be pizza montenara, where the dough is deep-fried, and its toppings finished off in the oven.
Bertonati will also serve a single handmade-pasta dish each month. He foresees traditional combinations such as potato and scamorza (smoked mozzarella), mussels and beans, and vongole (clams).
Dessert will also be influenced by his motherland: rum baba (a fluffy, rum-soaked pastry), torta Caprese (flourless chocolate-and-almond cake), and pastiera Napoletana (a tart made with wheat and ricotta, often eaten by Italians at Easter).
The fit-out, designed in collaboration with Chris Rowlands from RAD-Studio, will revolve around a Madre (Virgin Mary) statue in the kitchen. Hence the name. It’ll be as holy an experience as you’ll get in a pizza place. The all-blue kitchen, like an altar, slopes up from the spacious dining room where no one will sit with their back to Madre. “If I could do pews, I would,” Mitolo says.
Exposed red-brick walls have been splashed with blush-pink paint. Artwork by Sugar’s Driller Jet Armstrong, featuring mother figures, will hang throughout. Glossy pink-marble tiles (to be set in place with a similarly coloured grout) cover the floor. In its own alcove is the front bar, which will be Venetian-plastered. A record player will rotate through 40 or 50 of Mitolo’s favourites (music will be vinyl-only).
Where Pizzateca’s wine list is appropriately McLaren Vale-centric, Madre’s will run the gamut with a slant towards Italian drops. A beer-tap system will showcase “how much fucking good beer there is in SA”, Mitolo says.
Madre will open in mid June. It will initially operate Tuesday to Saturday for dinner, with lunches to follow.