In this life, there are very few things more important than good pizza. OK, now that I think about it a number of things spring to mind as potentially more crucial (love? friendship? world peace?). But you have to admit, pizza is hard to beat. It is nigh-on impossible to top the waft of pizza fresh out of the oven, or the satisfying crunch as you bite down into the crust. When I first moved to Auckland I was pretty keen to sample a few pizza places around town. What better way to get to know a place? And so, when one time I went for pizza with my friend, partner-in-crime, and fellow Floor 10 UH resident, Hannah, what started as a one-off quickly evolved into a regular fixture. Together we journeyed far and wide around Auckland to test out the offerings of three different pizza restaurants; what we discovered was very much to our liking. Folks, I present to you the thrilling and mouth-watering account of our search for the perfect pizza.
This was the first place we visited, in late March – I get all nostalgic just thinking about those early days. If I remember correctly we went to one of those club introduction things where they give out free pizza, but there were so many people at the event that there was only enough for one or two pieces each. Our appetites whetted but not sated, we were hungry for more. This seemed the perfect opportunity to try out That’s Amore which I had heard good things about, and which is only a ten minute walk from the university. It’s a tiny wee cubby-hole sort of place located on Courthouse Lane, near Chancery Square on the CBD-side side of Albert Park. It goes to great pains to present itself as authentic Italian, and if I had bothered to look up what “amore” means in Italian (love), then I would have figured that it’s a romantic set-up aimed towards couples (the big red, white and green love-heart which appears on the restaurant’s logo might also have indicated this). Upon finally making this connection, however, Hannah and I unanimously decided to not care, and we went in looking like a pair of love birds.
The decor was nice: the walls were decorated with photos of Italian movie stars and revered relatives. We ordered a regular-sized margarita to share. It was so good: a thin base topped with lots of basil and stringy mozzarella cheese.
Talking between mouthfuls, we realised that this was simply too good not to do again. The pizza hunt was born. We drew up a set of criteria with which we could compare our experiences at different restaurants. That’s Amore scored as follows:
- 3.5/5 for smell (an often overlooked category but in our eyes a key part of any culinary experience)
- 3.5/5 for the presentation
- 4/5 for the stringiness of the cheese
- 4/5 for the overall taste
- 3/5 for the general dining experience (we felt a little rushed).
Extra kudos ought to be given for the authentic style – it did feel genuinely Italian. I also realise that in our criteria we left out something all students have to take into consideration: the price. That’s Amore wasn’t too bad in this regard: our margarita cost us $16, and considering the quality of the pizza and the fact we were sharing, this was good value. All in all I was very pleased with our experience at That’s Amore and would definitely go back again.
April was a long month for it passed without a further excursion; so did most of May. It was beginning to feel like maybe the quest which we had so enthusiastically planned wasn’t going to happen after all. Finally though, late in the month, things fell into place. Hannah and I were going to a concert at the town hall, which happened to be very near Pizza Club on Elliot Street. Pizza Club had become a bit of a cult with our floor; its butter chicken pizza was legendary. It should be noted here that, in contrast to That’s Amore, Pizza Club doesn’t try to pass itself off as Italian. Their motto is “taste of the world” and they have an intriguing and rather haphazard menu of pizzas inspired by cuisines all around the globe (chilli paneer pizza, anyone?). Hannah had sampled Pizza Club previously and was a true convert, but I had never got to see what all the fuss was about. We just had to go. It was really a no-brainer. We ordered two pizzas between us: a large butter chicken pizza and a dessert pizza, which we ate messily on our laps in Aotea Square. We reckoned Pizza Club deserved:
- 4/5 for smell
- 3/5 for presentation
- 4/5 for stringiness
- 5/5 for the taste of the butter chicken (it was heavenly and deserves its reputation) and 2/5 for the dessert pizza (although nice at first, it quickly became sickly sweet and we left half of it unfinished).
- 3.5/5 for dining experience: eating outside and making a complete mess of things in public was actually quite fun.
Again, the price was moderate at $15 each pizza. In another universe I would absolutely be returning for the butter chicken. In this universe, however, I have since gone vegetarian so sadly that’s no longer an option. They do have a range of vege pizzas, though, which I’m keen to try.
Another long stretch of time went by before our third – and, to date final – outing. Actually it was only this first week of the semester that we managed to find time for pizza once again (an outrage, I know). Archie’s Pizzeria, came highly recommended by Metroeats, so this was chosen as our next destination. We went for lunch instead of dinner this time as their lunchtime pizzas are a whole lot cheaper. Archie’s is situated in Newmarket and seemed close enough on google maps, so I made the mistake of deciding we should proceed by foot. Consequently, a gentle walk turned into a half-an-hour trek, replete with heavy rain, strong winds, and a few wrong turns. In short, getting there was a complete and utter nightmare, and on the way we could be heard grumbling, “this pizza better be good!” We were not disappointed. Upon arriving, drenched and out of breath, we secured a table even though the place was already jam-packed. Hannah had the polo e pesto (chicken and pesto), while I chose another margarita. Mine was divine; Hannah seemed to really enjoy hers too.
This was how we ranked our experience of Archie’s:
- 4/5 for smell
- 4/5 for presentation
- 5/5 for stringiness: I physically couldn’t cut up the mozzarella it was so wonderfully rubbery
- 4/5 for taste
- 5/5 for dining experience – the wait staff were very professional and the place had a great ambience.
The setting and the food evoked Italian ‘authenticity’ without any of the feeling of trying too hard. As I mentioned earlier, the price for pizzas at lunchtime is reasonable: $15 as opposed to $21 for dinner. Overall I’d say this is our best experience yet, and well worth a 30-minute trek through wind and rain any time.
Finally, I’d just like to say thank you to you, Hannah, for all our escapades, for being such a good friend. These outings have been a real highlight of my year, and they wouldn’t have been nearly as fun without your wonderful company. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Here’s to many more adventures!