Pietro Barbagallo is the Southern Italian pizzaiolo who, years ago – before the artisan frenzy began – had people travelling from Toorak to Holmes Street, Brunswick for a slice. And that was back when Brunswick was properly dodgy. Maybe you only know of him from after that – when he founded i Carusi and then moved, briefly, to the city. If so, you’ll likely remember his nimble-fingered dough work. Maybe even have noted his disappearance from the scene last year. But it’s only those who knew him from the start – from that place where it was nothing but him, his pizza, the drum and bass, and the pretty girls – who will see him here, at Kaprica, working alone behind a simple marble bench once more, and understand that the pizza king is really back.
With his family’s backing, he’s renovated a Carlton South garage from the ground up, filling the long brick room with just enough vintage signs, books and bottles of Campari to reflect his agenda: simple, fresh and cheap pizza, pasta and salad, picked out with a few key perks like drinkable Campari and blood orange granitas. Note that sucker down for the impending swelter.
Duke it out for the couple of outdoor perches, or hit the park. Kaprica does take-away, which means you can sprint your crisp, thin-based #26 with its buttery tangle of leeks, and triple whammy of sharp gorgonzola, parmesan and mozzarella across the road for some al fresco action. Go a straight-up tomato, mozza’ and basil margherita if you're a purist (or just not as into gorgonzola as Barbagallo is). A full frontal assault of the stuff fills the sauce for gnocchi – resistance-free pillows floating in a cheesy sea.
Incredibly, he’s running this kitchen solo, punching and tossing bases, his hands flying from dough to bowls of fresh tomato paste and fennel flecked pork sausage, then to oven and back. He only pauses to toss a pan of fat prawns, sizzled in the shell with a little olive oil, garlic and chilli (served as is, as a starter), or to slice and season the tomato and plump mozzarella for the caprese salad on the way.
He's a man whose only concern has ever been about making a good pizza – “Pietro’s pizza,” his friend dubbed it – and showing you a nice time. That's what makes him the king, and long may he rule.