Just like people, pizza and pasta houses deserve a second chance, as Paul Wood discovers with the west’s hip new eatery Chicco Palms.
The pizzas from Pizza et Mozzarella have gained a delicious reputation since the pizzeria opened a few years ago on Pirie Street. They are unmistakably traditional with the puffed crust and chewy textured centre, the perfect dough and simple selection of toppings the key to repeat customers crowding into the wood-fire shopfront day after day.
But at the newly jazzed up sister venue Chicco Palms in Brooklyn Park, my first taste is a shadow of the original. Fatty strands of prosciutto offer nothing to prop up the limited splash of tomato beneath, besides a greasy sheen. The pizza flops.
Equally underwhelming is a plate of beef carpaccio with barely a thing going for it. No real flavour or seasoning, and only a half-handful of desperately dried out capers offering light saltiness. It also seems they have run out of cheese, promised Grana Padano is nowhere to be seen. A rowdy night time crowd and understaffed floor don’t add much to the experience and so we leave the venue along with our half-finished glasses of wine consider whether replacing old mate Barnacle Bill was in fact the best initiative for this rambunctious western suburbs abode.
Not usually one to give second chances, I’m prompted to head back by others who seem to have only good things to say about this on-trend, apparent pizza-house hit. So we venture to the inner west once more, this time for lunch. With fresh eyes in the light of day and less of a crowd it’s obvious that first impressions aren’t meant to last.
Chicco Palms is light and bright and plays well to the sunny Palm Springs theme. There are plenty of palms, of course, and sleek white furnishings with vinyl booth style seating, too. Large windows reflect neon signs and there’s a definite retro feel with tiled walls mimicking patterns in the floor and a timber ceiling offering just the right amount of ‘50s kitsch. Bright blue plastic chairs set up like a summer camp hall in one half of the dining space seem out of place, until YMCA blasts from the overhead speakers prompting our waiter to bust some dance moves.
It seems that forgiveness is in fact a virtue. Memories of that lacklustre carpaccio dissipate as a fresh meaty upgraded version of the same lands on the table. This time a generous layer of Grana Padano offers flavour and texture between delicious, lightly oiled slivers of beef and invigorated capers have sprung back to life to give each mouthful a pleasant salty kick. The bread is better and potato croquettes with Provolone and Parmigiano a simple but satisfying end to our snacks.
Aperol Spritz kicks our lunch into the right gear, and the house prosecco goes down a treat. A steady train of wait-staff attend our table, looking for something to do in the quieter hours and each offer mild entertainment – perhaps looking to better the efforts of their dancing colleague?
Despite it being a Friday, the Sunday roast lamb with patatine seems appropriate and this hearty dish is a show stopper in all the right ways. From beneath the sticky glazed skin topped with gremolata, tender lamb chunks fall off the bone and a gravy of pan juices beneath soaks into cubes of perfectly roasted potato. Fresh rosemary scattered on top reminds us of home cooked meals and despite being large enough for three, the two of us polish this off to the very last morsel.
And in their final two-step on the path to redemption, eggplant is given the parmigiana treatment, layered on top of a pizza that has a crunchy crusty edge and stretched, al dente centre that holds up well under the generous toppings including the roasted smoky eggplant, rich tomato, fior di latte cheese and freshly torn basil. Each mouthful is heavenly and finally takes Chicco Palms back to their Italian-Americano roots.
While the issue of inconsistency is still up for debate, Chicco Palms is worth the trip west, if only at lunchtime. So the next time you want to escape the hustle of the village or find sun in the winter time – go west, where the chairs are blue.
437 Henley Beach Road, Brooklyn Park
Tuesday to Sunday, from 11.30am
Photography: Jonathan van der Knaap