Melburnians love their gourmet pizzas and Supermaxi is the one of the newest kids on the block. However, the team behind Supermaxi comes with a lot of experience – namely, the head chef is Rita Macali, one of the original owners of Ladro in Fitzroy and arguably partly responsible for kick-starting the trend about 5 years ago for high-end Italian style pizzas.
Supermaxi is very similar to Ladro in its spartan blank-wall/dark timber furniture combination and relaxed neighbourhood feel. The menu is also very familiar, down to the same famous Badabing pizza topped with pork and fennel sausage and the oven-roasted meat of the day.
A large group of friends plus a week-old baby, booked for dinner for 6pm on a Saturday night, as that was the only time available in this popular restaurant. As the night progressed the noise level increased (fortunately baby slept through it all) so if you’re wanting a cosy, intimate restaurant for whispering sweet nothings then this is not the place for it.
To start, a complimentary bowl of brined Lupini beans, provide something to snack on while contemplating the choices. With eight adults, we were able to take a good run at the menu and opted to share a selection of primi plates and pizzas.
Of the starters, the crowd favourite was the pan-fried caciocavallo cheese ($12) topped with chopped tomatoes. Really, what’s not to like about fried cheese? The aracini were also excellent, with not-too-mushy rice inside a crisp crust. The rustic seared scallops, while perfectly done, didn’t excite me as much.
As expected, all the pizza bases were excellent – firm and chewy and slightly charred. While I am not normally a fan of eggplant, the GTV 105 ($17.50) won me over with whole slices of grilled eggplant, pesto and the occasional hit of anchovies. Possibly my second favourite pizza after the bianco pizza base topped with fat juicy porcini and field mushrooms, plus bubbling cheese mingling with the heady aroma of drizzled truffle oil ($19). My Italian friend said that the gold standard for pizza tasting is the margherita ($15) and in her view Supermaxi‘s version was one of the best.
We didn’t have room for dessert though to be honest nothing grabbed me in the same way as the Bombolini at Ladro, though the fried custard sounded curious. Total bill with drinks was $40 a head.
Comparisons between Supermaxi and Ladro are inevitable and I hesitate to recommend one place over the other. Both places produce high quality meals, especially pizzas, so I think the difference in the food is negligible. However, I did think that the service at Supermaxi was better – constant water top-ups, smiling waitstaff, very solicitous attitude. The space is also bigger if you need to feed a large group or need to fit a pram inside, though as mentioned before it can become very noisy.