We have been receiving recommendations for I Carusi pizza almost since the moment we arrived in Melbourne, from friends and from food bloggers. It's difficult to explain why it's taken this long to visit an affordable restaurant such a short tram-ride from our home! But it has, and even now it has taken a decisive moment from Jo-Lyn - while sharing a meal of Mike's incredible home-made gnocchi - for the booking to be made.
I Carusi has a very unassuming front: barely the width of a terrace house, it almost looks boarded up until you read the roughly hand-painted orange lettering on the opaque window. Inside is a dimly lit room crowded with people, boisterous conversation echoing off the walls. We're served by hip, efficient staff with no-frills attitudes and only a couple of grins to spare. Jo-Lyn and Mike have come prepared with a well-picked bottle of Merlot and order some entrees to share. I'm not a fan of olives, but the other three happily make their way through a bowl of deep-fried ones. The rosemary and salt foccacia that comes with them is great on its own anyway: warm and soft in the centre with a crisp light crust. The salad of mozzarella, tomato and basil leaves is fresh and flavourful, dressed with a bit of olive oil and a lot of black pepper.
The list of pizzas for the main course runs to a couple of dozen, from the simple pleasures of a margherita through to multi-gourmet-topping extravaganzas. Quite a few are vegetarian, and there's always the possibility of requesting one of the others without the prosciutto or the anchovies. Michael ordered a Floridiana: top-quality tomato sauce, mozzarella, eggplant, olives and a smattering of basil. For me, it was Pizza for a Friend: thinly sliced pumpkin, roasted pine nuts, a bit of mozzarella, topped with fresh rocket and dabs of goats' cheese. The toppings here are complementary and of excellent quality, but the bases are worth the most attention for lovers of thin'n'crisp: these are just thick enough to support the toppings and give a bit of chewiness, but no thicker. And look at that beautiful golden colour! I could blissfully eat a dry crust of it for lunch today.
Each of us ordered one of the 10 inch diameter pizzas, and two of them were just right for Michael and I to share, split 62.5/37.5 (that's three slices to me, five to him, non-geeks). It's also worth noting that I Carusi has a few dessert pizzas on the menu, and it pained me to depart without tasting the dark chocolate and pear one. (I had seven-eighths of a choc-nutella pudding at home to share.) If those tasty bases weren't enough, it'll ensure that I get back on that tram (or on a bike - thanks Mike!) for a second round.
Address: 46A Holmes St, Brunswick East
Ph: 9386 5522
Price: veg pizzas ~$15