PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
For many a long month back in 2006, pizza lovers west of the Yarra watched and waited to see whether the rumours were true: was there a sister restaurant to the legendary I Carusi opening up where that crusty old cafe on Ballarat Street used to be? Would the thin crusted, traditional pizza revolution make it to the west? Gossips buzzed. Eventually the brown paper was taken down from the windows and as the locals streamed in they discovered to their delight that the rumours were true. What had once been a seedy cafe was now transformed into a very cool and calm oasis of oak and white linen, brightened by strings of chilli and garlic, and bunches of bay hanging up in the open kitchen.
But what about the pizza? The promise of uncluttered classics was delivered upon, and how. Forget stick ham and stringy mozzarella, these pies come alive with sopressa and pancetta, fior di latte and gorgonzola, sautéed leeks, caramelised onion and roasted garlic, topped with fresh basil or rocket. There's a nod to the old favourites of yesteryear with a Hawaiian pizza featuring Virginia ham and pineapple, which will keep the kids happy, while mums and dads hoping for something sweet should turn their attention to the pizza dolce section of the menu. Try an intense strawberry and dark choc number, or get really serious with a plump calzone stuffed with banana and custard. Ooh mama. A taut list of Italian wines rounds off the list of goodies on offer. L'uccellino's early popularity shows no sign of waning so make sure you book ahead, especially on weekends.