Say 'I Dough' To Pizzantica!
Just picture this scene…
It's Sunday lunchtime and we are at a picture-perfect wedding fair soaking up the winter sunshine, bridal fashion shows, chatting to other lovely vendors and sipping a glass of crisp, fruity sav blanc. What could possibly make that picture better? PIZZA. Not just any pizza, but hands-down the best pizza I have had in years. Yes, I know that’s a big claim to make, but you heard me right.
Brisbane’s Pizzantica marries the art of eating delicious, piping hot pizza with your wedding reception (pardon the pun) and comes to you all wrapped up in a super fabulous vintage black kombi with a ferrari red oven at the back. These guys make the best Napoli style pizza around. I just had to find out more (okay, and taste more pizza), and was lucky enough to chat with owners Luca and Mike.
These savvy event caterers and business partners first met when Luca was playing futsal with Mike’s son. Luca has a love of vintage vehicles (including his gorgeous 25 year old vespa) and dreamt of creating a business that coupled a restored kombi with great food. He was definitely on to something. With a little help from Mike, who has an engineering background, Pizzantica was born in 2014. Pizza is their focus, as it should be because it is DEVINE, but they offer a customisable menu for any event. They were both a little surprised at how popular their kombi setup became for wedding receptions, in particular. To me, it seems a perfect fit for a unique celebration and this team are as talented as they are flexible.
I have got the scoop on how it all works so you too can feast like true Italian kings and/or queens at your wedding. So, here is our interview! Please note: I am glad you can’t hear the audio of our chat because I was constantly 'oohing and ahhhing' about my mouthwatering sausage, potato and rosemary pizza…
What do you love most about running this business?
We share a very similar answer to that question. We really are about giving people a pleasurable experience and we really work hard right from the first interaction with the client, through the life of creating the quote, to customising the solution together, to when we drive off. We see that people enjoy the food and they enjoy the set-up, which we have tried to make as funky as possible. Really just seeing people enjoying the food and enjoying what we bring to the party, that’s what gives us the kick. One bride wrote to us not so long ago, gave us a great review and said, “But I’ve got one complaint - since the wedding, guests are only talking about your pizza and your kombi and they’re not talking about my dress or the wedding”. We think that means we did our job! We really like bringing pleasure and enjoyment to people and bringing restaurant-style service and food to their event.
What menu options are available to event-holders?
Our core menu is really antipastos with some entrees, alongside the pizza as a main, supported by salads. We also offer gelato or dessert pizzas. We will vary around that to some degree, but we have set up to be efficient and good at what we do. However, we are flexible, so when one groom came to see us and loved our tiramisu so much that he asked us to do a tiramisu wedding cake, we have taken on that challenge. That will be something a little bit special for them.
The core of our business is the pizza. So, people can choose any combination of our dishes, but pizza must be included. The secret of our pizza is the dough. It needs to rise for at least 48 hours. Then we use good quality ingredients including an imported tomato base, which we then spice up ourselves, and great mozzarella, which is also key. We also use a specialised imported gas oven.
Can you take us through the process of booking the catering?
Firstly, people will contact us and straight away we make sure we can lock a date in. Once we know we have that taken care of, we mock up a very detailed offer which says, for example, “You’ve got 70 people. In the event that you want entrees, pizzas and gelato, this is what it’s going to cost you. Here is the full brochure and the full menu, as well as the gelato list.” Then they will come back to us and tell us what they want to do. From there, often we meet with the bride and/or groom to find out what their vision is and to let them taste the pizza. This meeting also lets us know how much we need to dress the kombi up - we can put a white ribbon on and flowers if the couple would like. We also go through the staff and the serving options, as we can customise those too. Our staff can wear smart or casual outfits. The serving of the food can be buffet-style or fully waited, or a combination of the two. Following those decisions, the couple pays a 50% deposit and that’s all we need at that point. Then 10 days before the wedding we confirm final guest numbers, the ingredients we need, the start time and we put it all together. We work out the final balance, that is paid and then we just turn up on the day.
So, it is an easy process and we put time and effort into it to make it that simple. The reason couples come to us is because they need help. We are really pleased that that whole strategy and focus of trying to make it easy for people actually has worked and we see it in the feedback we receive. We take care of the quantities needed based on the number of guests and the demographics - we have done hundreds of these events and have a good handle on how many pizzas are needed. If we do start to run out on the night, we will discreetly let the bride or groom know and ask if they want more pizzas made. It’s a fixed price and then we just send an invoice for the balance. This is a great system because we aren’t forcing people to buy a lot extra up front - it’s a good quantity and if you need more, we’ve got more.
Will you cater at any venue?
Geographically, we have been as far as Noosa up the coast and as far as Byron Bay down the Coast and we do quite a lot of events in the Hinterland as well. So in the South-East we can do about a 150km radius comfortably. We would calculate a travel fee on a case-by-case basis. All we need is a 5x5 flat piece of ground so we can get set up as flat as possible so your pizzas don’t come out oblong. Dough and gravity don’t go well together! We’ve got our little marquee that we put up, the kombi sits next to it and the oven is on the back. In the four years we’ve been doing events, we’ve never had a problem caused by the weather.
The great advantage we have is the kombi is very compact, which means we can just drive in almost anywhere and we don’t need a lot of clearance, unlike massive food trucks. Also, using a gas oven means there is no smoke and we can control the heat down to a few degrees, which delivers consistent pizzas. Luca and his team have catered events with 250 guests with the one oven. He just sets the temperature and off he goes.
Do you have gluten-free and vegetarian options?
Yes. We’ve got a very nice gluten-free base and all the pizzas can be made on that base. Essentially all of the pizzas can be vegetarian, except for the Meat Lovers. We also cater for vegans by just taking out meat and dairy and substituting them for more vegetables and some extra virgin olive oil. We have a lot of flexibility to suit both vegetarians and vegans. We’ve got them covered.
What would be included in a typical wedding package?
We will typically see people having three or four courses including antipasto and entrees. Generally with weddings, people don’t want gelato because they have wedding cake, but we do have the odd occasion when people add gelato too. It is a very nice gelato.
[Abby’s note - I second that! I tried the salted caramel and hazlenut gelato and they were both delightful.]
What has also become very popular is the addition of salads to our packages. We have a variety of salads (including pumpkin and spinach or rocket and pear) and they can be served in individual little containers or in large bowls. We also have our Caprese salad, which is served on big platters and people can then pick up the cheese and tomato themselves.
In terms of timing, we are always there at least an hour before we need to serve food because the oven needs that time to warm up. Let’s assume we’ve got three courses - salads, antipasto and pizzas for 100 people, that would mean we’d be there generally for about three hours. But we don’t sell hours, we sell the food. We stay as long as we have to - there is no extra cost. At the end of the day, we want to make sure the guests are well fed, everyone’s happy, you are happy and you don’t want any more food. That’s the way we do it!
Could you tell us a little more about how the food is served?
The primary option that we offer is a waited buffet service and with that comes napkins and disposable plates. If the couple has a particular preference for plates, we can work with that too. Though we cannot bring crockery, if the couple would like to provide that, we can serve the food on those plates.
What we see from time to time is people asking for the pizza to be served on our long pizza boards on the tables. We slice the pizzas into 6 to 8 slices and then the guests can choose pieces themselves. If it is a table of eight, for example, we might put three pizzas down at a time. We try to steer people away from serving a pizza per guest because it can be a long wait between the first and the last pizza being cooked. We recommend giving the guests a mix of the pizzas and then they can try the different flavours. The couples get a choice of three to four pizzas.
When we first started, there were a lot of buffet style receptions. We highly recommend a buffet as that way, after people are happy and full, we aren’t still trying to constantly offer them pizzas, which can lead to frustration. Towards the middle of the night, we will generally start serving the buffet table so those who are hungry can help themselves. That works really nicely. We also dress the buffet table in either an elegant (white table cloth and white flowers) or rustic (hessian tablecloth and a cute picnic basket) theme. We bring the whole lot with us.
I have a huge sweet tooth and couldn’t help but notice that you offer desserts, including my favourite - gelato! Could you tell us about the dessert options please?
There are currently two options for desserts - the gelato and two dessert pizzas - and we are thinking of adding tiramisu to the events menu too. The dessert pizzas are nutella and strawberry or condensed milk and banana. We have about 30 flavours of gelato and they are quite exotic. We serve it two scoops at a time and it’s a generous serve. If the event has more than 40 guests, we give the bride and groom four options. Then we would do two combinations (lemon and mango sorbet and hazlenut and vanilla bean, for example), put them on our long boards and let guests grab the one they want.
Here is a little taster of the flavours you could choose from…
Butterscotch, peanut butter, coffee, strawberry sorbet, Mars Bar, cookies and cream, macadamia, passionfruit sorbet and almond. YUM.
Just for fun - what is your favourite kind of pizza and what beverage do you like to pair it with?
(Mike) I think pizza is a very vibrant food and I always like it the most in spring and summer. I like a good old Aperol Spritz as an apéritif. I guess my favourite is probably a Napoletana actually, which has got black olives and anchovies - all the very strong contrasting flavours. If I’m going to drink anything with that, it would be a nice cab sav.
Thank you SO much to Luca and Mike for sharing their delicious pizza and their amazing story with Must Love Stories. It was a JOY to learn more about this business and I guarantee that you would not regret trying this delectable Italian food made with such passion. In fact, the kombi might just become a star of your wedding! The Pizzantica team is busily working away to build their dream Pizzeria in Hawthorne, which should be ready to roll in early 2018 (and will look amazing from what I’ve been told…) and they have an insane schedule to make sure Brisbane residents are well fed. You can find them at any of the places below!
Eat Street at Hamilton Northshore (Their name there is Pizzeria 4007)
Casa Italia in New Farm (Look for the Pizzantica sign out the front)
Green Beacon Brewery in Newstead (Monday and Tuesday nights)
Bardon Bowls Club (Friday nights)
Fortitude Valley Food Truck events (Friday nights)
Milton Mini Markets (Thursday nights)
These are just SOME of the events you can find Pizzantica at, so keep an eye out for that cute black kombi with the bright red oven and follow your nose… Also, if you end up booking these guys for your wedding, which I highly recommend, you can’t blame me if you get a little addicted…It is pretty inevitable. You can visit their website here.
Anyone else feeling hungry now? I hope this inspires you to try some Napoli pizza! Abby xx