Zero95 first came to our attention only a couple of months ago when one of its chefs, Andrea Cozzolino, defeated more than 600 other chefs in an international competition in Naples, Italy, seeking the maker of the best margarita pizza. So exactly how good are Zero95’s pizzas? Bilby and I resolved to check it out for ourselves.
Zero95 is notable for not being in a trendy Melbourne food location – not a Carlton or Westgarth, a South Yarra or Fitzroy, but ultra-suburban Doncaster East, well out of the city, in a not-particularly up-market open air shopping centre. The décor is funky modern bistro, with the large pizza oven prominent amongst the exposed light bulbs, wooden table and benches, and tiled walls. The tables are just a bit too close together for comfort and conversation, exacerbated by the fact that even though we were aiming for a quiet Sunday lunch, Zero95 is packed, and there is a constant turnover of families, couples (young and old), and groups of friends.
The menu offers a dozen or so standard Italian entrées, four salads, only three pasta dishes, one risotto, and ten desserts. They all sound tempting (we will return to the desserts later), but we are here for the pizza, and pizza dominates, with about 20 options ranging from the simplest of classics (e.g. Regina has a topping of just three ingredients: bufala cheese, cherry tomato and basil) to innovative specials (e.g. Lipari’s topping comprises fior di latte, rocket, walnuts, strawberries, San Daniele prosciutto, goat cheese and balsamic).
Wanting to test out Zero95’s classic pizza skills, and following the recommendations of our friendly waitress, we choose the Napoletana (San Marzano tomato, fior di latte, olives, anchovies and oregano) and the San Daniele (San Marzano tomato, basil pesto, buffalo mozzarella and San Daniele prosciutto).
We have done our homework and know that Zero95 makes pizzas in the Sicilian tradition – like their more northern cousins, the crust is thin, but soft rather than crisp. So soft that Sicilians lunching on the go will roll up or fold their pizza into a very tasty and convenient hand-held meal.
The Napoletana looks great: a puffed-up edge surrounding the rich red tomato topping studded with strips of melted fior de latte, whole pitted olives and anchovies, with a generous sprinkling of oregano. This is a very good pizza highlighting classic ingredients and flavours.
The San Daniele has clearly been prepared differently, as its generous topping of lots of high-quality prosciutto, fresh basil and torn off chunks of mozzarella was applied after coming out of the oven. The pesto tastes very fresh, and the San Marzano tomatoes, as always, provide a rich tomato flavour. This is an excellent pizza.
For dessert we can’t go past the Cannoli Siciliani (filled with ricotta mousse, cinnamon, chocolate and cherries) - see first pic. The deep fried pastry tube is crisp and mildly sweet, the filling a creamy delight.
We also sampled the hot chocolate, which came piled high with extremely light whipped cream. The chocolate was fine, and so familiar that I suspect it was the commercial powdered brand from Italy that we have at home (it is very indulgent).
Do we have a stance on crisp versus soft pizza bases? No. The eating experience may be different, but we reckon that they are both great, as long as the cooking and ingredients are right – no more than about 60-90 seconds in a very hot wood fired oven.
And the name Zero95? It is the area code for Catania, a small town on the east coast of Sicily with a rich cultural and culinary history.
We loved it. I’d like to try the pasta as well, but there are so many pizza varieties to sample first…
OverallGreat, authentic Italian cooking comes to outer suburbia. Note that all pizzas are available on gluten-free bases.
Find it atZero95
904 Doncaster Road
Doncaster East Vic 3109
Phone: (03) 9840 6975