Benvenuto! Or…. Welcome! And welcome you are Italian word when you enter the Blue Velvet Artisan Pizza and Pastry Lab. Out of all the pizza restaurants along Henley Beach road (at least twenty – I checked!), this may take out the crown for the most authentic eatery.
Italian vocabulary is scattered throughout their menu, which offers both salato; Italian artisan baked goods and pizzas and dolce; decadent (or healthy) Italian desserts. Head chef, Paolo Rosina and pastry chef, Dr Ilenia Scuderi were both born and raised in Italy, moving to Australia after achieving multiple qualifications including the Scuola Italian Pizzaioli Diploma, Italian Artisan Baking Certificate and an Italian Pastry Diploma. Their extensive menu reflects their respective proficiencies, and I was truly blown away by their rapid service speed.
It was difficult to decide on a starter… so we got them all! Well, almost. Our first bite of the evening was into some home-baked artisan bread, topped with burrata and a small rasher of Prosciutto di Parma. This dish, practically named Burrata E Prosciutto; Burrata and Ham, was so simple, yet so perfect. The cheese was served whole and literally burst open as I pierced its outer layers, while the toasted bread and Prosciutto di Parma impeccably complemented the aforementioned star cheese.
Our next entrée was selected purely on interest factor; the Farinata Di Ceci or Chickpea Farinata. This gluten-free and vegan chickpea flour focaccia was served with diced avocado and a small garden salad. Ostensibly a little bizarre, the focaccia itself was dense and flavourful, yet became truly lovely when complemented by the lightness of the fresh avocado. The garden salad served the same purpose, effectively lightening this dish into a true Italian delicacy.
Never one to pass by authentic street food, I just knew that the Suppli’ Al Telefono was going to be a treat. Dr Ilenia Scuderi was quick to point out the uniqueness of this dish’s name. The fried-until-golden spheroids of rice are stuffed with mozzarella fior di latte which, when broken into two pieces, serves to emulate an old-fashioned telephone cord. Hence, its name, which literally translates into “telephone-style supply” is very fitting, referencing these exact telephone cables. Quirky etymology aside, these crispy rice balls are cooked in a beef-based tomato sauce and are absolutely delicious. Served with a tomato-based condiment, these will be a hit with both your young children and elderly mother and I’d highly recommend them as a safe choice for your next dinner party.
If you don’t order the house-made garlic bread are you really at an Italian restaurant? We don’t think so, that’s for sure. The House made Pane All’aglio is extremely different from traditional garlic bread and superbly so. The freshly baked bread is brought to the table steaming, while the garlic butter glistens and my (or your) stomach rumbles! Like the pizzas, this bread featured a thick crust and very thin centre, the perfect base for a smorgasbord of flavours to shine. Here, the age-old pairing of garlic and butter was enough to satisfy any garlic bread connoisseur!
We decided that it was probably best to get only one round 11-inch pizza… We had to save room for the Pizza all apala for 2 people afterwards! We were extremely close to ordering the 6 Cheeses Pizza; mozzarella fior di latte, parmesan, smoked scamorza, taleggio, blue cheese and brie, however, I simply could not get past The Parmigiana. I’m a sucker for well-cooked eggplant, hence I just had to step in and choose this one! With a delightfully full crust, fresh San Marzano tomatoes, baby cubes of juicy eggplant and mozzarella fior di latte that practically sung to me, it was a choice I did not regret!
We were both super keen to try the Pizza all apala for two people. This (considerably) larger pizza has the option of any two toppings. We picked the Diavola and the Cotto. Funnily enough, we both preferred one end of the vast pizza! The Diavola was my co-foodie’s favourite. He simply couldn’t get enough of its distinctly Italian flavours; the fresh San Marzano tomatoes featuring once again, a blend of both mozzarella fior di latte and spicy pecorino cheese, spicy salami and classic black olives. A noteworthy addition was the nduja; a spicy, spreadable Italian pork sausage that practically made this pizza! On the other hand, I loved the simplicity of the Cotto; featuring our staple mozzarella fior di latte, some simple leg ham, perfectly moist baked potatoes and extra virgin olive oil. Divine.
Although my main stomach was exceedingly full, my dessert stomach was practically tearing at the bit after glimpsing the array of pastries on the front counter! To finish off our Italian banquet, we shared three desserts. First up was the Tiramisu Classico; a delicious, decadent dessert that featured coffee (strong coffee‼) soaked layers of house-baked savioardi biscuits balanced with lighter-than-air pastry cream made of free-range eggs and South Australian artisan mascarpone cheese. As someone who actively does not drink coffee, even I appreciated their perfect ratio of coffee to cream!
Next up was the Cheesecake Al Mango. I’m sorry to say that I only tried one bite of this before it was snatched up! The Summer season vanilla Philadelphia cream cheesecake has a gluten-free almond crumble biscuit base that is much moister and cakier than the classic crushed biscuit base and oh so good! The topping of mango gélee was fresh and zingy as well!
Lastly (but certainly not least) was the Giardino Di Frangole. The Italian name translates to Strawberry Garden and rightly so! The layers of strawberry gélee perfectly complement the Limencello liquor-soaked savioardi biscuits. Nevertheless, it was the delicateness of the candy-pink strawberry mousse that turned this dessert into something magical. It’s hard to say, but I think this might have been my favourite dish of the evening! If anyone asked, I would describe it as a Strawberry Tiramisu, and for people who aren’t a huge fan of coffee but adore the concept of tiramisu, I think we’ve found the solution.
I neglected to mention earlier that Dr Ilenia Scuderi also carries the qualifications of Healthy Eating Certificates, Australia Tea Sommelier Diploma, Nutrition Advisor Diploma and a Philosophy Degree. This broad array of qualifications has led the pastry chef to become more interested in Pasticceria Salutistica (Healthy Patisseries) which is evident on the menu! Gluten-free pizza is available and over half the pizzas are Vegetarian or Vegan. These include… Although we didn’t get to try the Earthy this time round, I can only begin to imagine the gorgeous array of colours on this vegan pizza, featuring beetroot cream, baked potato, parsnip, julienne carrots, crushed macadamia nuts and extra virgin olive oil.
In true Italian style, I raise my glass and cry mamma mia! to the owners and staff at the Blue Velvet Artisan Pizza and Pastry Lab. They are forward-thinking, welcoming and presenting some of the best Italian food in Adelaide. Maybe I’ll see you sitting at one of their intimate dinner tables or admiring Chef Rosina as he tosses a pizza dough 3 metres high in the air. Or perhaps, I won’t see you at all because you will have succumbed to the attraction of take-away and enjoy your pizza in the comforts of your own home!
Che bello and arrivederci!
Words by EG Mills from E-cup Gastonomy
WHERE: 70 Henley Beach Rd, Mile End