Some restaurants name themselves.
“The idea for the aesthetic came to me first,” says John Tummino, who owns Brunswick pizzeria Madonna Electric with high school pal Rob Johnstone. “I started buying up some of that old Franco Cozzo furniture. I went to one particular guy’s house. He had a couple of statues of Mary, Sacred Heart. He goes, ‘Do you want these too, if you’re into this stuff?’”
Tummino hauled the statues to his empty shop, and got back to building the pizzeria.
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“They just kind of, sat there and watched over the place,” he says. “I hadn’t yet named it, but I just started referring to ‘the Madonna’. Like, ‘What does the Madonna think?’ They quickly became part of the place and then we had an electric oven, so it just came together.”
The Virgin Mary up the back, illuminated by pink neon, is the restaurant’s most striking feature. That’s saying something given the elaborate rococo furniture and the walls crammed with kitschy plates and portraits. If you were wondering, Tummino is a Sicilian surname and this is the sort of decor he grew up seeing in Westmeadows. Nostalgia, not irony, is the word, and the reason why snacks like lupini (“Italian edamame”) appear on the menu alongside pizzas.
Tummino favours thin, light, crisp bases cooked in an electric, rather than woodfired, oven. They’re made from 00 flour, water, salt, oil and baker’s yeast, fermented for 48–72 hours. The results are radically different to the puffy, charry, floppy Neapolitan pizzas most common in Melbourne.
“Neapolitan’s never really been my favourite,” Tummino says. “It’s absolutely got its place and I get it. I get the tradition. It is considered the king, the first, the primo pizza. But the pizzas that I enjoy more are thinner crust. They’re a little crispy, a little chewy and the toppings are a little drier. Something we’re really proud of is our trays rarely come back with crusts left on them.”
Toppings are equally individual. The Lucia Mia is sautéed leek, gorgonzola, riced potato and smoked salt. The cheekily named Ma Va Fa … L’Americano pairs mozzarella with salami, jalapenos and house spicy honey. And This Saseech swaps sugo for cannellini bean paste, plus cotechino sausage, red onion and pickled peppercorns. Hawaiian tragics are sorted with a pizza of smoked ham, caramelised pineapple and cracked pepper. Add a crust dipper like salsa verde or gorgonzola sauce if you have a serious aversion to plain bread.
If the decor and pizza page don’t make Tummino’s playful nature clear as cut crystal, the selection of eight aperitivi and 15 cocktails will. The signature Me Me Me spritz is an instant classic, with its fine balance of amaretto, cherry liqueur and ginger beer. The similarly refreshing Hugo in Brunswick features moscato, elderflower, mint and prosecco. But if you really want to commit to the theme, order a Saint Mary’s Veil: Melbourne Gin Company gin, Cointreau and blue curacao topped with sweet cream.
833 Sydney Road, Brunswick
0451 145 833
Mon, Thu & Sun 5pm–9pm
Fri & Sat 5pm–9.30pm