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900˚ Wood-Fired Pizzeria fires up Allan Reid

Voracious, Victoria’s restaurant column

Well, I’ve met my new favourite pizza. Her name is Sophia, and she is… What’s the word? Theatrical? Extravagant? She is sinfully sweet. And yet, she has a bite, and a good dash of salt on her thin crust, soft and pliable. She is like a festival, with so much going on. She is an orchestra, all her instruments so diverse, contrasting, complementing and in tune, for it is music that she makes. Oh, but do not think that she is all on the surface. No, for she has a creamy heart and a savoury earthiness. She is fresh herbs and vegetables.

Where did I meet her? Why, at 900˚ Wood-Fired Pizzeria, in the Millstream Village Shopping Centre in Langford. It’s not the most romantic spot, I must confess. The interior was a rather drab grey and white, but then I noticed the cultured marble tables, playfully paired with rustic benches and bentwood chairs. Each was set within its own little alcove of dark wooden slats topped with glass.

But it was the wine that first caught my eye: a wall of Chianti, Barbera and Piemonte for reds, and Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc for whites (there’s always a French among the Italians).

And there’s a lot of Venice on these walls. Canvas photographs of St. Mark’s Basilica, and gondolas on their canals. The music is 1970s pop-rock—Jackson Browne, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Hall & Oates—but the menu is pure Italian. Salads of arugula, tomato, extra-virgin olive oil, lemon oil, figs, aged balsamic. Hmm. Appetizers include Neapolitan Meatballs, and Scorched Tomatoes with ashed goat cheese, chipotle flakes, pesto, walnuts and figs. Sounds so divine.

But I skipped straight to the pizzas. There are the Classic Reds, with organic tomatoes and fresh mozzarella—there is a lot of organic on this menu—and the Signature Reds, bestowed with names of Italy: Lombardi, Brava, Passione, Carnivoro. Then there are white pizzas with local island cream and fresh mozzarella. Some incredible flavours come out of 900˚’s golden oven. Seriously, it’s golden, with “Victoria” emblazoned across it in black.

But I digress. I found Sophia, hiding in the pesto section. House-made pesto, of course, and fresh mozzarella—again, of course—but Parmigiano, too, and grassy asparagus, luscious zucchini, sweet bell peppers, red onions and garlic. It’s the chipotle flakes that give Sophia her bite. Finally, a scattering of pine nuts, and the wonderful sweetness of that fig balsamic reduction. Ooh, la, la… and I fell in love.

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