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Despite the abundance of pizzerias there are very few places to buy a slice in Melbourne that aren’t attached to a train station. That’s about to change with SPQR, a wood-fired pizza joint from one of the guys behind MoVida, Pei Modern, Rosa’s Canteen and Lee Ho Fook.
“We’ve been burning the oven each day, slowly curing it,” David Mackintosh says (curing is a process during which the water in the oven’s concrete is steadily “baked out”, so it doesn’t crack in the heat). He says they’re allowed to crank it up by 50 degrees each day until it reaches just over 400 degrees. At this temperature, the pizza will be in and out in 60 seconds.
Designed by Nick Harding from Ha Architects, the Liverpool Street restaurant revolves around this oven, which was custom-made by an Italian family in Thomastown. It has a solid concrete base, an igloo-shaped dome built from bricks, and is covered with insulation and a layer of cement.
The pizzas – sold by the slice at the front of the venue and by the wheel at the back – will use a sourdough base that’s fermented overnight, then blasted in the wood-fired furnace until the crust crisps and blisters. Mackintosh promises all the favourites, as well as a couple of originals from the SPQR pizzaiolos. He’s not averse to Hawaiian, either, so long as he can get some decent pineapple.
“There really is an emerging component of hospitality where places are focusing on doing one thing really well,” he says. “We thought that rather than having heaps of different options, if we keep ourselves really focused on doing great pizzas with a couple of delicious salads and simple desserts, that would be worth pursuing.”
No pizza would be complete with bira e vino, so there’s reds and whites from the King Valley, Stone & Wood beers and Mountain Goat on tap, plus a thoughtful selection of Italian longnecks.