You might not know it, but there are different levels of pizza. There’s the one you order when you’re devastatingly hungover and you need to ship in some help to get you out of the foetal position. That’s a Level 1 operation. Then there’s the pizza you order with your workmates when no one can decide so you choose a crowd-pleasing option to shovel down with your bevvie on the wind-down to the weekend. That’s your classic Level 2. And then, there’s the alpha and omega. The pizza that you search for when only pizza will do; the pizza with the perfect crust, the three-cheese trifecta with the carefully selected pairings of herbs. It’s not haphazardly thrown together with reckless abandon, it’s delicately prepared with ‘amore’ (that’s Italian for love…) That’s THE pizza that you relentlessly search for, and no other pizza will do the trick and you can’t stop, won’t stop until you find it. Well, you’ve found it here. Time to level up.
It’s literally called a pizza bar so if you’re on that hunt for a Level 3, it shouldn’t be too hard to stumble across Elmo’s. And yes, it also has an always-alluring Burrata Bar but don’t get sidetracked because when you’re on a mission, there’s only one thing you need to order. Head on over to the Wood Fired Pizza section of the menu and pick your poison. No surprises here, I like the chicken one. But when you see it you’ll understand why. It’s tomato, mozzarella, wood-fired chicken tikka, charred onion and watercress, served with Shardas ‘Raita’ cucumber and coriander dipping sauce. So yeah, it’s pretty not bad. And the Italian Job is listed as a must-try on their menu, and after one bite of any of their food you’ll be trusting everything they have to say. This one is a white base, mozzarella, nduja spicy sausage, turnip leaf, olive cream and smoked cheese; it’s decadent but with a small kick of spice. Afterwards you should get the Tiramisu, and not just because it has the words ‘Extra Large’ in its title.
Location: 151 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby
Favore (Ponsonby Food Court)
Though you might be forgiven for mistaking Ponsonby Food Court for a Level 2 pizza operation, you won’t find any mediocre Italian in here. Because even though from first glance it might look like a lowly food court, the PFC is famed for being the hangout spot of the best international cuisine in Auckland. If you poke your head around the corner, hidden away by the windows, you’ll find Favore. But nobody puts Favore in a corner. It’s too perfect to be tucked away like an afterthought. Not only is the guy behind the counter the nicest person on earth, but when he recommends a pizza, pasta or even dessert, he doesn’t do you wrong. I’m a firm believer that chicken belongs on a pizza (fight me) so it’s always the Mirtillo Pollo for me. Tomato, marinated chicken, caramelised onion, mushrooms, mozzarella, brie, cranberry sauce and basil all unite for the perfect bite of Italian goodness. If you’re dining with a friend (or if you’re just a fellow overeater), get the Chicken Fettuccine as well. Share it with your mate or just pile that bacon and mushroom creamy sauce right on top of your slice.
Location: 106 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby
“Oh, the Burrata, get the Burrata.” That’s all I ever hear about Lilian. And I mean, sure, I guess you can get the Burrata to start but if you’re not there to mess around, get the pizza. No chicken to be seen on this pizza menu, so you know it’s got to be authentic AF. In lieu of my favourite poultry, I have to venture out into the great unknown but Lilian always rewards me for my bravery. Despite having a mild fennel allergy, I swallow my anti-histamine and tuck straight into the Tua tua pizza with fennel cream, parsley, chilli flakes, fried garlic and pecorino. And it’s worth the minor swollen tongue. But when i’m feeling like a less life-threatening dish, I opt for the Prosciutto pizza with grapes, parmesan and thyme. Even though grapes could be considered a strange addition, it’s that kind of level of detail that will earn you a Level 3 rating. And yes, of course I got the Burrata, I’m not an idiot.
Location: 472 Richmond Road, Grey Lynn
I’m going to go off topic for a second here and talk about Arancini. They just do it right at Dante’s. I’m a long-time rice-hater, always have been, always will be so if you’re able to win me over with literally a ball of fried rice, you’re onto something. But the main courses are just as praise-worthy and if you’re willing to go home and lie down immediately after dinner then definitely try the ‘Carne.’ It’s all meat – unsurprisingly- we’re talking salami, sausages and parma ham, all covered in shaved parmesan. Not someone usually swayed away from toppings, Dante’s does the classics so well that i’d even recommend the Margherita. It’s vegetarian but I try not to hold that against it. But if you’re looking for the macdaddy, try the Calzone. It’s a slab of tomato, mozzarella, ricotta, spinach and salami and it’s worth the 10km run you’ll have to do tomorrow.
Location: Eastridge Eatery, Ponsonby Central, Takapuna, Queen’s Rise
Umu doesn’t mess around with silly things like absolutely anything else on the menu, it just serves pizza and it serves it good. The best part is the pizza’s don’t even have names, just numbers because the flavours do the talking. They run from numbers 1-5 and then there’s a drastic jump to 99 which is intriguing in itself and enough to make anyone order that one. And you will have made a great choice as you bite into mozzare
lla, mascarpone, roasted potato, caramelised onion, truffle oil and pancetta. As a very integral part of the pizza, they’re all about the base at Umu. It’s hand stretched sourdough, baked in a wood burning oven and it’s got nothing extra, just the basics. Flour, water, salt and time. So if you’re one of those insane people who don’t eat your crusts, this is not the place for you.
Location: 469 New North Road, Kingsland
I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, Archie knows what he’s doing. I mean, they pull it out of the most Italian wood-fired oven i’ve ever seen, and you get the honour of watching it go from its fiery depths to inches from your drooling face in under 10 seconds flat – does it get more Italian than that? I’ve talked a lot about the toppings but the bases at Archie’s is what makes it really special. They’re light and fluffy on the edges with a subtle crunch from the oven, and then more dense and flavourful in the middle as they soak up all the delicious oils from the cheese. And while I would order Archie’s in any state, any day of the week because it’s a personal favourite, it’s definitely deserving of being the treasure at the end of your pizza hunt.
Location: 63 Davis Crescent, Newmarket