Pizza Wars. La Bussola Bistro

It doesn’t pay to be the Number 1 Pizzaiolo here in Australia; your business premises might be subjected to midnight shootings by jealous gangland members. Peaceful Melbourne, frequently named the world’s most livable city, has an underbelly. Our local Mafia members, like elsewhere, are all interconnected to fresh markets, Italian restaurants, and money laundering, you name it. The recent shootings of the Woodstock businesses ( http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/gangland-dispute-believed-to-be-behind-pizzeria-shooting-20131031-2whuv.html ) meant that Mr Tranquillo and I decided to eat our pizza at a less notorious pizzeria last Friday night. I am one of those greedy people who likes the pizza straight from the oven, not steamed in a delivery box, so my search for Melbourne’s best Pizza restaurant ( a dangerous mission!!) will not include delivered pizza.

La Bussola ( the compass) has been around for ever and is one of my favourite haunts for pizza. Situated in the super cool end of Lygon Street – Brunswick East – it has not succumbed to the gentrification of pizza. No wood fired oven. No minimalist decor. No young smart wait staff in black, no reviews by food critics. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA La Bussola Cafe sells honest pizza ( and pasta) like the good old days. The base is thin and nicely charred. The toppings are traditional. The Pizzaiolo is tired and often grumpy, as he spins each pizza disc in the air, then returns back to his corner and newspaper. His wife, a smiling presence, makes the pasta. A family sized pizza ( 35 cm) is $17.00 with a generous but not gluttonous amount of topping. It’s a BYO restaurant, with a $1.50 per person surcharge for corkage or you can buy some very cheap house wine, which is cask wine served in re- cycled wine bottles!! This makes for a very cheap night out for two – $10.00 each with own wine.  No wonder it is so busy on a Friday night. Most of the other customers were eating pasta, which averaged around $11.00 per piatto.
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But wait for the decor! We are talking RETRO heaven. I love the brown tiles, the mustard coloured pay phone in the corner, the arches, the faux brown wood panelling. Straight out of Madmen. This authentically retro restaurant should be subjected to heritage listing!

This place is an institution with locals and is deservedly popular. How should I rate it? 10 for traditional pizza styling, 7 for the actual pizza, 8 for location, 10 for remaining a truly un- gentrified, cheap and retro island in the midst of a trendy sea.

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La Bussola
319 Lygon St
East Brunswick
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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