25th January 2016
797 Glenferrie Road
Hawthorn, VIC 3122
Remember my little sister? She’s 13 years old, cute as a button (though I’m sure she’d hate me saying that), is a fantastic drawer, and gets painfully embarrassed when Chris is in the same room. Unfortunately for her, she got stuck with us when my parents went away for the week, and we gleefully bundled her up (metaphorically – she’s bigger than I am) and took her out for dinner.
Having been reared almost exclusively on a diet of Domino’s and Pizza Hut, my sister has yet to have a proper traditional Italian pizza. Wanting to stay a bit closer to home, we decided to take her to Rococo, a popular Italian restaurant-and-cafe in Hawthorn. In terms of first appearances, Rococo is no Gradi. The bright and modern restaurant was pleasant but lacking in character, and the overall feeling was of an everyman sort of place that caters to the lowest common denominator.
But that’s not to say that Rococo isn’t nice. The light pouring into the spacious dining room made it a comfortable place to be regardless of the time of day, and the room buzzed with an easy, convivial atmosphere. The massive menu was double sided with everything Italian you could possibly want. They didn’t just have a pizza section or a pasta section; they had several pizza and pasta sections each. There were also plenty of entrees, cheeses, and charcuterie to go around, as well as a wine cellar out back.
You know what happens when you eat with a 13 year old and a 23 year old who may as well be 13? You end up ordering Garlic and Herb Bread ($8.5), despite there being at least a dozen more exciting things on the menu. But hey, it was garlic bread, so I could only get so upset. The crusty slices were soaked in butter, rubbed with herbs, and lightly toasted for a crunchy exterior and fluffy centre. Maybe being 13 isn’t so bad.
Margherita Pizza ($18) is invariably my favourite thing to order, and I love how this one came with both melted cheese as well as hand-torn pieces of mozzarella. The San Marzano tomato base was fantastic – gorgeously rich and tangy, with a streak of summery sweetness running through. The base wasn’t as outstanding; although thin and slightly crispy, the dough was a somewhat overworked, resulting in a base that’s a smidge too chewy and dense.
Meanwhile, Chris and my sister agreed unanimously on the Classic Italian Meatball Pizza ($22.5), a heartier confection topped with chunky meatballs and house-made pesto.
The moist, rich meatballs were a match made in heaven with the tomato base, and the coarse pesto was mild and nutty, adding just a hint of herbal aroma to the pizza. Predictably, the base was much too thin to carry such heavy toppings, but none of us minded all that much.
On my insistence, we also ordered a serve of Mixed Leaves ($7.5) dressed with olive oil and balsamic. It was exactly what it said on the packet – nothing less, nothing more.
Despite not being a serious pizzeria, Rococo is no slouch. Ok so it is pricier than I would expect to pay for food of this quality, but it’s really not all that far off. The charm of Rococo lies in just how accessible and easy it is, without compromising too much on substance. You could certainly do much worse.
Rating: 13.5/20 – one does not simply write about pizza without getting hungry.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.