My Food and Travel writing courses start next Monday! Some people wonder about what exactly it is that they will learn and how they can use it. With more and more bloggers posting restaurant reviews, I teach you how to do a proper review, paying attention to the key factors that should be noted in every review. To register or learn more, click here.
Here’s a sample of what one keen student was able to achieve after following my template and a bit of judicious editing. It’s good to be anonymous when you are reviewing, so my guest reviewer will simply be known as RC:
Pizzeria Prima Strada: A slice of Italy at home
A trip to Italy, fourteen years ago, completely destroyed my desire for pizza – the North American version, that is. All that changed when Pizzeria Prima Strada opened its doors in the vibrant Cook Street Village.
The restaurant is a much-longed-for addition to a city brimming with foodies. Let’s face it; pineapple and barbecue sauce swimming in a puddle of cheese atop a deep-dish crust does nothing to nurture one’s inner Italian. Unfortunately, that is what passed for pizza before Prima Strada stepped onto Victoria’s culinary scene.
Pizzeria Prima Strada has a rather unassuming exterior being nestled, almost in strip-mall fashion, between a fast food joint, and a coffee shop. However, immediately upon walking through the door, the visitor is greeted by the wonderful homey aroma of freshly-baked pizza. The atmosphere is casual, and the room is abuzz with chatter, and laughter. The earth-toned interior exudes warmth only outdone by the show-stopper of the room – the traditional wood-fired brick oven.
First-time visitors might like to sit at the bar that surrounds the oven, and watch as the chefs stretch and twirl the dough, sprinkle it with fresh, locally-sourced toppings, then fire-roast it in the 800-degree flame. We’ve been before, so many times that, well, let’s just say the notion of having to someday attend a Prima Strada Anonymous meeting no longer seems far-fetched; tonight, therefore, we opt for a table.
The staff is fun, and friendly, some of them having been here since the place opened five years ago. Their camaraderie creates a lasting, positive impression on their customers, making it feel like a true neighbourhood trattoria.
Tonight I start with the caprese salad ($10), and it doesn’t fail to delight. Thickly sliced , ripe heirloom tomatoes that have been marinated in balsamic vinegar are loosely, but attractively, sandwiched between equally-sized slabs of soft, white, mozzarella di bufala. Small glistening dollops of brilliant green basil pesto add a tang that balances the sweet balsamic, making me feel euphoric.
There are four of us, so we decide to split two pizzas. The first is hands down the most popular pizza on the menu – the Funghi ($15.50). The base, a mild porcini cream with a hint of pecorino cheese is topped with roasted succulent mushrooms, tender, sweet caramelized onions, and a pinch of fresh thyme. The crust is authentically Neapolitan – thin, crisp, yet chewy. We each pick up a slice, and fold it in half lengthwise – the traditional way of eating this type of pizza.
The second pizza, the Salsiccia Piccante, features house-made sausage, tomato, mozzarella, and roasted red bell peppers. The fennel in the sausage makes this spicy pizza pie quintessentially Italian. We share a bottle of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo DOC ($33), and the bouquet lends a liveliness of blueberry and cherry sensations, with hints of licorice that pair well with the earthy flavours in the pizzas.
There are six desserts on the menu, but the four of us, each armed with a tiny spoon, agree to share a tartufo – a large, hard ball of imported chocolate hazelnut gelato with a vanilla center ($6). Our waiter offers to top it with a shot of espresso, but we decline, as this delightful frozen orb comes already rolled in just the right amount of bittersweet cocoa powder to offset the sweetness.
Prima Strada succeeds at producing simple, and delicious Italian food. Owners Geoffrey Dallas, and wife Cristen DeCarolis-Dallas insist that the Caputo ’00’ flour is the secret to their perfect crust, and that minimal, fresh toppings prove their theory that quality trumps quantity. Clearly, they have done their homework, and judging by the nightly lineups at the door, it has paid off.
Don’t let the queue turn you away, though. A twenty-minute wait is a small price to pay compared to the nine-hour flight needed to get to Italy to find a comparable culinary experience.