Monday, October 27, 2014

A slice of Cipro – pizza al taglio

Having been asked quite a few times about my favourite dining experiences in Sydney recently, I was surprisingly short on answers. For anyone who asks now, it's without a doubt a recent early dinner at Cipro – pizza al taglio in Alexandria.

Cipro is the casual Italian brainchild of former Rockpool Bar & Grill head chef Khan Danis and partner (and creator of Rockpool's famous date tart) Catherine Adams. It seemingly followed into south Sydney in the footsteps of fellow Rockpool alumni Mike McEnearney's Kitchen by Mike in nearby Rosebery.

Cipro's pizza concept strays from the Sydney norm of thin-based, round Neopolitan style pizzas to a Roman style on a thick base, still baked by wood fire but formed into large rectangular slabs to be served by the slice.

Pork sausage, spicy peppers and olive pizza from Cipro – pizza al taglio, Fountain Street, Alexandria
At $12 a rectangular slice, it's some pretty extravagant pizza to be had in a converted warehouse space. Pre-prepared and displayed mouthwateringly behind a glass cabinet, there are a number of colourful topping options that seem both modern and very Italian.

Dining in the airy restaurant space looking into the large open kitchen, we opted to share the fennel scented Italian pork sausage pizza slice with colourful, softly roasted capsicum and pitted Sicilian olives. The pizza slice gets reheated and dressed up with fresh parsley and olive oil, going some way to justify the price tag.

I hadn't had a thick-based pizza for years and the last one I did have was probably a franchise-delivered one. Cipro knocks thick-based pizzas out of this world. With a well-crisped bottom, the thick base is unexpectedly airy, softly chewy and not at all unbalanced in ratio to its toppings.

There's a seriously good, herby tomato sauce beneath the toppings and the thick slice is capable of holding more toppings than your Naples-style thin base – they certainly load them up at Cipro although a lot of it falls off when you pick up the slice. I resorted to cutlery to slice through the crisp-bottomed base, remembering that thick bases weren't so bad after all – in fact, the pizza was sublime.

Caprese salad
Not wanting to fill up on pizza only, we explored the rest of the quite substantial and relatively standardly-priced menu, with a full page of desserts that I regret not leaving room for. But at least I was able to discover what has to be Sydney's best take on the classic Italian insalata Caprese or Caprese salad.

Featuring a ball of fior di latte mozzarella, torn and scattered over beautifully ripe, tri-coloured heirloom tomatoes, topped with young basil leaves; I think it was the quality of tomatoes, the addition of pitted Sicilian olives and pickled onion rings, and the finally the balsamic vinegar dressing that made the salad simply spectacular.

Wood fire grilled lamb loin chops with caponata and crispy polenta
A lot of the main meals feature a stint on the wood-fired grill or oven, which I hadn't entirely expected but certainly wasn't complaining about. Lamb loin chops are rarely seen on dinner menus outside of the home so it was a delight to receive three of them off the wood fire grill, burnished with a charred aroma that had us salivating.

Much like very well-seasoned lamb chops off a barbeque, there was a pure homeliness about battling the tendons and fatty rind for the tender meat on the bone. The lamb loin chops were served dry with three perfectly golden, crisp cubes of deep fried polenta and a smattering of mushy diced vegetables in a sweet caponata.

Prawn linguine with cherry tomatoes, snow peas and parsley
The generous prawn linguine was hands-down the best seafood pasta dish I've had – ever. Without the support of a tomato base, a lot of prawn and shellfish pasta dishes are insipid at best with bits of garlic, parsley and white wine for flavour.

Cipro's prawn linguine was a superb dish in its own right and not just the pasta category. Brimming with chunky pieces of fresh prawns, sweet cherry tomatoes and julienned snow peas, it was properly seasoned with loads of parsley, garlic and a whole red chilli.

Every mouthful was a burst of flavour – firm, sea-fresh prawns or juicy tomato quarters – with the well-olive-oiled linguine. There was nothing that could be improved, save for an addition Cipro's sensational house-made chilli paste for those wanting a bit more of a spice kick.

Their opening hours – recently updated to midday till 9pm on Tuesdays to Fridays, 10:30am till 9pm on Saturdays, and 10:30am till 6pm on Sundays – indicate that the owners have some more family-friendly hours than the industry generally, which rather suits the casual air of Cipro being more the neighbourhood restaurant. With its serious restaurant quality, Cipro has certainly captured my slice of the local dining pie, or should I say, pizza.

Cipro Pizza al Taglio on Urbanspoon


chocolatesuze said...

mmm could totally go for a slice or two of that pizza right about now!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a coincidence! We are in Rome and had some Roman style pizza today. The crust was amazing although if I had to pick a favourite out of Neapolitan style or Roman style pizza I just couldn't :)

Tina said...

Hey suze - It was really surprisingly good. I don't know why I didn't expect much from the thick base but seriously loved it.

Hi Lorraine - We're pizza aligned ;)


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