Johnny Rudduck built up a remarkably loyal following during the 16 years he made pizza at Il Buco. After hawking more than 750,000 slices he closed the doors of the Roman-style pizza institution for the last time — on his birthday, no less — to simply have a break. Those worried about where they're going to find their next rectangle slice needn't look too far; the keys have been handed over to an owner-operator who has a similar finesse with the Italian comfort snack.
Despite a bright new facade and name, much of the cosy nook remains the same. The bright red coffee machine still sits at the front of the shop, the street-facing leaner survives on the edge of the footpath and the long glass cabinet continues to house several different varieties of pizza ready to be finished off in the oven.
The new title, La Trattoria, literally means 'the restaurant' in Italian. While the heart of the food lies in the old country, the restaurant's new owner Santiago de los Reyes is putting his own South American twist on the offerings. Hailing from Uruguay, Santiago has been in New Zealand for just two years, arriving with experience from an organic pizzeria in his hometown.
Santiago's slices are noticeably puffier than Il Buco's four-sided segments — something which he says is a traditional way of serving pizza in South America. He is currently working with the Argentinean chef to reduce the pillowy base because, "New Zealanders are not used to so much flour." He adds that the most important thing for him is the cheese. He has been working with Dairy Flat cheese makers Massimo's to find the right variety of mozzarella.
La Trattoria will serve 11 kinds of pizza in total, rotating between five or six each day. The slices include a classic Uruguayan style of pizza that comes loaded with tomato sauce, green olives, garlic and two kinds of mozzarella. Then there's the Fugazzeta, a stuffed Argentinean style filled with ham and mozzarella and topped with onions and provolone.
Also served by the slice is a Spanish variety with mozzarella and chorizo, the classic combo of salmon, basil and cream cheese, and the four cheese Quattro Formaggi. Fans of Il Buco's classic meatball slice should try the Bolognesa which comes with ground beef, tomato sauce, mozzarella and a generous helping of oregano.
The kitchen will also offer two pastas every day, and from 5am will be serving fresh made croissants, coffee and vegan hot chocolate. Cakes and fociaccia are also on the agenda. Rounding off the South American theme are soft and delicate macarons called alfajores — the perfect finish after a slice or two.
Images: Juan Ignacio Sanchez.