In the suburb of Deakin, a new Italian pizzeria has made huge waves in the community. Locale Pizzeria is a small sophisticated bar and pizzeria offering wood-fired pizzas, authentic Italian pastas, charcuterie boards and classic Italian desserts like tiramisu. The pizzeria takes up one small corner of the Deakin shops next door to the popular Double Shot cafe (and I found out via This is Canberra that the owners of Locale also own Double Shot). The black motorbike parked out the front signals an edgy hipster vibe. The dark timber framing around the large windows is reminiscent of the small bars in Italy where you can look out at the cobble-stoned town and people watch. It looks like the windows can be opened up fully in summer to let in the cool breeze which will be much needed with the wood-fired oven roaring at the back.
During the winter nights, the pizzeria is cosy and warm inside. Seating-wise, there are a couple of high tables placed on one side of the pizzeria, a leather banquette in the front corner surrounds a few tables that can be split into tables of two or put together for a larger group, there are stools around the illuminated marble-top bar filled with Italian beer and wine, a few stools around the windows – perfect for a more intimate party of two, and some tables in the outdoor enclosed heated dining space. Our table had a gorgeous marble-top with entree plates, cutlery, wine glasses and folded hand towels at the ready. As I sat down, I was immediately asked if I would like still, sparking or tap water and this was brought out quick smart.
I always need to try arancini balls everywhere I go. The arancini at Locale ($18) with porcini mushrooms, taleggio cheese and truffle oil come in a serve of three but are slightly bigger than most places. The crispy fried outer shell was fantastic – crunchy and not oily. The rice was cooked well and had turned dark brown due to the mushrooms mixed throughout which added a bit more mushroom flavour. Although sparing, I loved the big slices of mushrooms inside. I could taste a hint of truffle oil and let the small liquid cheesy centre spill over when I cut the arancini in half. As there was a lot more rice in the larger sized arancini, I would have liked more seasoning to balance it out.
I ordered the ravioli di granchio ($32) which were crab meat filled ravioli with leeks, asparagus, enoki mushrooms and bisque. I was worried that the portion size would be small with a vision of three ravioli squares (this happened at another restaurant) and was pleased when my plate arrived filled with a satisfactory amount. Not too little and not too much but enough to satisfy my hunger whilst allowing room for the most important part, dessert. The ravioli is delightful with distinctive crab meat and crab flavour in the tender pillows of pasta. You know how sometimes there is seafood flavour but you can’t actually tell that it’s seafood and you wonder what the hell you’re actually eating? That is not the case here. Real crab meat, check. Real crab flavour, check. I forgot to ask whether the pasta here is home made but it certainly tastes it. I loved the leek and asparagus mix. There was so much flavour in the bisque I was tempted to ask for another serve of just the bisque. Simple and delicious. The others at the table all ordered pizzas. The folletto ($25) would have been my choice pizza with buffalo mozzarella, Italian sausage, porcini mushroom, truffle oil and parsley. Locale’s menu states that the Italian philosophy on toppings is less is more and I agree.
Locale offers take away pizza (pick up only) and a box was provided for our uneaten left over pizza slices. Note: quinoa pizza bases are available for an additional $4 however the menu states it may contain traces of gluten.
Dessert time! I was in the mood for chocolate and the tortino al cioccolato ($14) was my first choice dessert. The warm Perugia (where Baci chocolates come from!) chocolate pudding is served with a scoop of salted peanut gelato and caramel sauce. This all came out on a wooden board with each element plated in individually. I was warned by the waiter that the pudding dish was hot so I wouldn’t burn my fingers. The chocolate pudding is cooked around the edges and on top where chocolate sponge had formed. The entire centre was a rich gooey warm chocolate lava. A chocoholics dream. The salted peanut gelato helped to counteract the very sweet and rich chocolate. It melted quickly and there wasn’t enough gelato to pudding ratio. I liked that the caramel was thick, shiny and gorgeous but got dominated by the lusciously rich chocolate. I honestly didn’t need more sweetness so I left most of the caramel off. This is a sinful choco-gasmic dessert that could be shared between two depending on your chocolate tolerance levels.
The others ordered the classic tiramisu ($14) which looked decadent dusted in cocoa powder. This was a good contender but I still rate the Italian & Sons/Bacaro tiramisu as the best in Canberra.
As the pizzeria is small with a lot of diners packed in, noise levels are high that you need to really raise your voice/shout to speak to people across the table. I actually tried to dine at Locale on a Friday night without making a booking as I thought a small suburban pizzeria could take walk-ins. I was wrong. They were fully booked out that Friday. I made sure I made a booking for a Monday night (can’t be that many people out on a Monday night right?) and was surprised to find it was still packed with diners and those waiting for take away pizzas. By 8.30pm, we were politely informed that there was another booking at our table so we quickly paid the bill and got out. Make sure you book in advance!
Locale is a restaurant I am eager to go back to. The food is authentic, non-pretentious and homely. The atmosphere is alive and buzzing. The restaurant incorporates the typical Italian quirks without being cheesy – candles providing soft lighting at the table, colourful glass pendant lights to distribute a warm glow, garlic and salami hanging from the ceiling, and the pizza guy at the back kneading and twirling his dough while baking more pizzas in the wood-fired oven. The service is quick and polite. Surprisingly we didn’t wait long for our food even though the place was packed. Staff in white shirts and funky denim blue aprons come around regularly to fill glasses with water which I appreciated. In conclusion, it was a great night out with friends and food, and I will be returning.
Value for money 7/10
FPJ score 24.5/30
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