Be vegan for a month (but don’t miss out on the special flavour you love)
Massimo’s Pizza Club
The best pizza in Cape Town
Massimo is no shrinking violet. He’s hard to miss when he walks around his restaurant brandishing flaming sugar cubes at customers, or paddling pizza into a roaring oven.
Rumblings can be heard all over Cape Town about this pizza wizard. Driving down a back road in Hout Bay; a sign of a black chicken lets us know we’ve arrived.
“How about some ‘between the sheets’?” asks Tracy suggestively. Tracy is Massimo’s wife as well as co-owner, and no, she isn’t hitting on me. She’s filling me in on a new starter: focaccia bread sliced in half, layered with Gorgonzola and finished in a hot press. It comes to the table sprinkled with coarse salt and crispy rosemary...and leaves as a plate-licked-clean mere seconds afterwards.
This isn’t the first time I’ve eaten here. I’ve had raucous family feasts, where we tried ten different pizzas—there’s a half and half option, so you can try two different toppings on one. I’ve also had more romantic occasions. Today though, is neither of the above, but it’s still just two of us. So we each order a pizza; this way we’ll actually get to try four.
We order a Napoli (Massimo’s favourite, he tells me when pushed), classic toppings of anchovies and olives. The other half is Italian sausage and fennel; a combination so magic it apparently prompted one prolific blogger to kiss Massimo.
Next is the Bianca, a ‘white pizza’, meaning there’s no tomato base. Topped instead with garlic butter, Mozzarella, smoked cheese and pan-fried mushrooms. Simply sublime. And, lastly we devour the Montagna; also a white pizza with garlic butter, mountain-style cheese, Black Forest ham and mushrooms. Siphoning up crumbs, I find myself wanting to kiss the chef too.
When the moon hits your eye...
Massimo and Tracy fell in love in London back in 1997 and travelled the world together.
The restaurant is decorated with personal photographs. There’s one over the fireplace with Massimo as a boy, wearing a Fedora surrounded by chickens: the inspiration for the restaurant’s logo.
With lunch cleared away we’re chatting over mini chocolate ‘thimbles’ filled with chocolate liqueur. Massimo makes the liqueur and has chilli and orange spiked versions too. We pop full thimbles in our mouths, the combination of the crack of the chocolate and the boozy liquid is delicious.
You can buy the liqueur here, along with cuciarin (sugar cubes soaked in alcohol). There’s a little shop or ‘Porta a casa’, which sells speciality items that are used in the restaurant such as; bresola, duck fat, Fiordilatte Mozzarella and even T-shirts.
“I learnt to make pizza in France,” says Massimo. "We were living in a 400-year-old farmhouse in Dordogne. I flew in the pizza oven from Italy.
“The first time I made pizza though I thought I had wasted my money. It was terrible!” Since then the couple have clearly perfected the craft. Just what is their secret?
“Temperature,” nods Massimo, “is the most important. That and we let our dough rise over night.”
And how did they end up in South Africa? “We took a three month trip to Australia,” says Tracy joining in the conversation. “Our flights were via Bali, and then the bombings there happened. So, we just looked at a map, and decided to come here instead.” A couple of years ago the couple moved to Hout Bay permanently, and have been tempting Capetonians ever since.
I have one last question for Massimo. What’s his inspiration? “Tracy,” he says lightning quick. “She has a much better palate than mine.”
By Malu Lambert
Tip: There’s more than just pizza on the menu; try a variety of specials, including plenty of pasta and creative desserts. And, this coming summer they plan to expand outside, where Massimo says he’ll be braaiing Italian sausages.
Massimo’s Pizza Club
Oakhurst Farm Park | Main Road | Hout Bay | +27 (0)21 790 5648
Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday from 12pm till late.
New: Pizza and neon signs at I Love the Dough in Bree Street.
Still hungry? Here's an overview of pizza spots in Cape Town.