We're accustomed to the idea that every slice of pizza worth its weight in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles requires decent lashings of mozzarella. Which is why the news that famed Newtown pizzeria Gigi is going vegan might come as a shock to Sydney pizza fans.
According to owner Marco Matino, the tradition of the Neapolitan woodfired pizza "is an art form which will always be relevant no matter how times change". That said, they've decided to kick their double smoked ham and stringy mozzarella to the curb in favour of a new plant-based menu that is both sustainable and ethical, with fresh, locally grown produce and key ingredients imported from Italy.
The menu has been totally reinvented. Aside from the dairy-free blue cheese that adorns the Funghi e Radicchio ($22), the entire menu is completely cheese free. We'll give you a moment to digest that.
"Marinara pizzas [with just tomato, garlic and oil] were the first served in Naples for over forty years before the Margherita was introduced," says Marco. Though that may be the case, we can safely say that, ever since some genius put some cheese on one of those saucy bases, we've never looked back.
The pizza pros at Gigi have maintained the integrity of their quality woodfired dough with its slightly crispy, slightly chewy bite, but for a cheese pizza devotee like me, unfortunately, the creations feel like they're missing some vital ingredients. I'm sure we've all had those times when, a little too keen to become one with a hot slice, we have in our first bite inadvertently pulled off all the cheese and then been left with a bland, saucy base. Welcome to the new Marinara Tradizionale pizza ($17) — a chewy base laden with tomato puree, a few basil leaves and nothing else.
However, some of the more innovative combos do manage to take your mind off cheese. The Cavolo ($22), for instance, is a beguiling combination of cauliflower puree, artichokes, pinenuts, capers, currants, garlic, parsley and extra virgin olive oil. The Ripieno Zucca e Spinaci ($24) sports pumpkin cream, sauteed pumpkin, spinach, swiss brown mushrooms, onion, roasted cherry tomatoes, thyme, rosemary and extra virgin olive oil, while classic numbers like the Patate ($24) — with thinly sliced potato seasoned with garlic and rosemary — work really well, especially with the additional of black truffle pate.
It's going to be interesting to see whether this new, invigorated menu draws the same hungry masses that once considered Gigi their pizza mecca, or whether they'll seek out new pizzerias where they can have their cheese and eat it too. But the owners can be optimistic, given the popularity of Newtown eateries like Sadhana and Lentil as Anything, that a whole new crowd will seek out the taste of a more ethical and sustainable Gigi.
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