Go eat at Pizzeria Prima Strada. The subsequent paragraphs will describe in detail why you should visit one of their two locations, but if you only have time to read my introduction, here’s a quick point: they don’t use pineapple as a topping.
I visited their Cook Street location on a Saturday night, which meant waiting for a table. My friends and I passed the 20-minute wait outside, as the indoor area reserved for yet-to-be-fed patrons was full. Not a big deal on a warm September night, but since when has Victoria been warm all year long?
Our group of three ended up seated at the bar. This arrangement isn’t ideal for conversation, but offers the best view of the oven (it’s where all the action is). The pizzas are shaped, stretched thin, and then draped in toppings before being slid into the open, wood-burning oven for a short bake. Temperatures reach up to 875˚F, allowing orders to go from a pile of raw dough and tomato sauce to a crispy hand-held meal in under 10 minutes.
The pizzas are conducive to sharing, but you may develop strong feelings for one pizza over the others. This certainly happened with my friends and me. I fell for the Panna e Pancetta pizza ($15.50), a white pizza strewn with pancetta, ricotta, scallions, Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella. The creamy cheeses are balanced by the saltiness of the pancetta and the pungent scallions. Caution: it’s highly addictive and filling. I didn’t clear my plate.
One friend met, then ate, her pizza soulmate, the Margherita ($15). It’s the classic tomato, basil and mozzarella combination. If ordering the right pizza daunts you at all, get this one. The tomato sauce is slightly sweet, the basil fresh, and cheese oh-so-melty. I kept sneaking glances (and bites) all night.
Another friend got serious with the Salsiccia Piccante ($15). Topped with house-made fennel sausage, tomato sauce, mozzarella and roasted red peppers, she was head-over-heels. I appreciated the flavour profile, but found the sausage too spicy for my palate.
A note about eating your pizza — I went all-in with both hands, folding my slices in half to ensure maximum pizza-to-mouth exposure. My friends experimented with forks and knives, but eventually succumbed to my method with much resistance.
“You know you can just fold the pizza in half,” I pointed out.
“But then it disappears twice as fast,” complained my friend, who sensed her love affair was slowly vanishing.
The menu also includes antipasti plates, salads and gelato, but none of our stomachs or hearts could take it. Pizzeria Prima Strada is a keeper.