--- Written by WX, Photos by AY
Last Friday, FW claimed he had the best place in mind to take everyone. I was quickly told that the place is called Pizza e Birra. In my semi-comatosed state after my visit to the dentist (yes I'm exaggerating), I replied in a confused state:
"Pizza e WHAT?"
"Birra - it's the place name."
Then I was told to just shut up and get in the car. My dream had finally come true. My friends were kidnapping me to feed me. Perhaps now is the time to store a bone in my purse so they can keep fattening me?
The buzziness of the place was apparent from the first moment I stepped in. Rustic overtones and a distinct earthiness oozed from every corner of the restaurant. Most noteworthy observation was the use what I can only describe has fancy butcher paper with a stamp of "Pizza e Birra" on it as table coverings. Big tick for the "something different to tickle your fancy" box.
Complimentary bread and olive oil were served promptly after ordering. Yes, just bread and warm olive oil. While the bread and the oil were nice per se, I generally prefer mine with a little balsamic vinegar. You could imagine my surprise when I dipped my bread into the accompanying dish, only to discover that I had merely been soaking up olive fat. Yummy and warm olive fat. Hehe.
Service on the whole was a bit absent throughout the night. There were quite a few moments where we felt we should have brought a fishing line with us in hope to catch any waiter swimming around all the tables. Speaking of tables, I think I would have been much more comfortable with a little more space so that I didn't have to eat with my elbows tucked in tightly, in fear of KO-ing someone as I'm eating.
Calamari Fritti - $23
We ordered two entrees to share. First up the Calamari Fritti was well executed and light. It could have used a little more salt and pepper, but on the whole they were a nice way to start the evening. The rocket provided an interesting and refreshing accompaniment.
Arancini - $7
The arancinis were appetising and perfectly cheesy to my liking. Overall they were moist and tasty. I definitely could have had a few more.
Quattro Formaggi - $21.50
The Quattro Formaggi was nicely cheesy and tasty - perfect for the cheeselover. However I did notice that quite a lot of the cheese around the edges were far from melted, and that the crust was a tad on the overly-makes-my-jaw-hurt chewy. Nevertheless they were enjoyable.
Pizza e Birra - $24
Signature dishes always have the trouble of needing to live up to expectations. All I can say that Pizza e Birra definitely met mine, and I was terribly sad that I only ended up having half a slice, sharing it with FW. The spinach was soft and wonderfully tasty - I never really thought about how spinach might work on a pizza. Hi rocket, I think you have just been bumped.
Linguine con Vongole - $23
FYL also chose the Linguine con Vongole demonstrated how pasta should be cooked and the definition of "al dente". The flavours were subtle and it really gave the vongole a chance to show off its flavours.
Pappadella con Ragu Atrano - $23
Pappadella con Ragu Atrano was perhaps my absolute favourite for the night. It belongs in my list of "Bait-Dishes" - those dishes which transforms me from a "researching-foodie" into a "returning-customer". The duck was so wonderfully tender and juicy, bursting with flavour in the rich tomato ragu. The pappadella was also cooked al dente and wrapped itself gracefully around the delectable sauce. More-ish would be an understatement.
Overall I'm a bit torn about how I feel about the restaurant. The food was excellent and wins my heart over instantly, likewise the buzzy ambience and the warmth of the place. What turns me off somewhat is the poor service by some waiters, the lack of attention paid to the table, and just things like clearing out your table too quickly and having to chase for your bill.
I don't know. I'm still undecided. Duck ragu or no ragu?
Pizza e Birra
Shop 1, 500 Crown Street
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9332 2510