2/205 Victoria St
Marrickville, NSW 2204
Here’s to the end of 2020 (well, at the time of writing anyway)! Although I can’t speak definitively for everyone, I’m pretty sure most people absolutely cannot wait to bid goodbye to this strange and uncomfortable year. And what better way is there to celebrate the end of this long, hard slog than with a pizza party?
I don’t have a whole lot in the way of pizza options around my place, but a quick 20 minute drive towards the city gets me to Pizza Madre, which consistently makes its way onto best-of lists, despite being an entirely vegetarian operation. And although its name suggests something familiar and cosy, Pizza Madre is less of a mother, and more of an eccentric aunt. The execution may be traditional, but the pies here are only tangentially Italian, featuring toppings such as asparagus cream and roast sweet potato, all the way to what seems suspiciously close to baked beans on pizza. And let’s not even get started on the heresy that is changing the traditional pizza base for a sourdough wholemeal variant.
But despite the offbeat choices when it comes to toppings (which are all seasonal and locally-sourced, by the way), Pizza Madre clearly knows what they’re doing with their pizza. They’ve got a lovely woodfire oven out front and centre, but like all good food, it’s the smell that hits you first. The rest of the restaurant is fairly low-key, the sparse room and wooden tables made chic with greenery and a shelf of local wines. A bottle of house-made chilli oil on each table adds authenticity (though admittedly, not much flavour).
The Margherita may be the most classic pizza of them all, but Pizza Madre has given it a twist with their rendition consisting of Smoked Mozzarella, Tomato Sauce, Fior di Latte, Basil, Oregano ($22). This is like a half-way between a Margherita and a New York cheese slice, and the boost that combination gives to the flavour is incredible. The addition of the smoked mozzarella and oregano may seem trivial, but it gives this pizza a robustness that you rarely see with such simple toppings. But more importantly, let’s talk about the base. Swapping the white flour and yeast out for wholemeal and sourdough may not seem like a big deal, but trust me – it makes a world of difference. Not only is the base marvellously thin and crisp, it stays that way for the entire pizza eating experience. But it’s the crust that’s the best part of it all. Unexpectedly crisp and light, it has a delicious sourdough flavour that blooms with a few chews, and is just as worthy of your stomach space as the rest of the pizza.
With some help from our ever-so-lovely waitron, we decided on the Yellow Tomato, Capers, Stracciatella, Fior di Latte, Olive Powder, Fresh Oregano, Pickled Onion ($25) – what a mouthful! – for our second pizza. This is a good one if you like strong flavours and unusual combinations. Between the salty capers, briny olive powder, and surprisingly sharp balsamic-pickled onions, each bite is arrestingly bold and tangy, though things are kept in check with the mellow underscore of sweet yellow cherry tomatoes and creamy stracciatella.
With the excuse of ‘why not, it’s NYE!’ up our sleeves, we rounded dinner out with a dessert of Madre Doughnuts with Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream ($12). Made with the same dough as the pizza crust, these doughnuts look and taste like the lovechild between churros and Chinese youtiao, and the result is nothing short of magical. Despite being deep fried, these are so soft it almost feels as if they deflate a little as you bite through the cinnamon sugar-dusted exterior, and the middle is so fluffy and doughy I’m inclined to describe the mouthfeel as creamy. It is fantastic with the dark chocolate coconut ice cream, which not only adds some much-needed sweetness, but also brings out the light saltiness of the sourdough. This may not be a doughnut in the traditional sense, but it is every bit as good.
Pizza Madre may not seem all that far off from your standard Neapolitan-styled pizzeria, but the little differences really do add up. Between the unusual toppings, sourdough crust, and the general whatever-goes attitude, it is remarkably how refreshing and unique the Pizza Madre experience feels, all whilst holding onto the classical Italian techniques. Apparently this is also one of, if not the only place in Sydney to do a sourdough pizza crust, so if you haven’t tried Pizza Madre yet, this is one that’s worth chasing up.
Rating: 14/20 – crazy pizza aunt.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.