After conquering the art of curing, smoking and roasting almost every cut of meat imaginable, Luke Powell of Sydney restaurant LP's Quality Meats is turning his hand to pizza, with the opening of Bella Brutta in September. After taking possession of a former pizza shop on the quieter end of King Street in Newtown, Powell and his partners from the Porteño empire are now transforming the site into a 50-seat restaurant with a large bar, courtyard and a slightly retro green and white palette.
"The terrifying thing is that we've never cooked pizza before," Powell says. "But at LP's we turned the smoker on two days before we opened."
What Powell lacks in pizzaiolo credentials, he more than makes up for in the toppings department. LP's pepperoni, saucisson and mortadella are much-loved by chefs and diners alike across Sydney, and those same cured and smoked meats will form the backbone of the pizza menu at Bella Brutta. In terms of the style of pies, the chef doesn't want to be wedded to a particular regional expression such as Neapolitan or Roman pizza.
"I guess it's going to be a bit of a mash-up of what we all like," he says.
At the moment the team are playing around with sourdough bases that end up super charry, borrowing the wood-fired oven at nearby Ester for ad hoc trials until they can fire up their own bright red pizza oven that's been shipped over from Italy.
As for the rest of the menu, expect lots of vegetable-heavy sides and desserts, as well as salumi, of course, although Powell is keen to offer smallgoods that haven't been seen on the LP's menu before. Powell will be in the kitchen while partner Tania Houghton will manage front-of-house, a role she's also held at LP's Quality Meats.
The drinks list will include unusual Italian wines, lots of amari and some Powell originals, including a house limoncello.
The name, chosen by Porteño's Elvis Abrahanowicz, means "beautifully ugly" and is drawn from an Italian expression about making a good (or bad) impression.
"The main thing is that it's going to be fun," he says. "I don't know anyone that doesn't like eating pizza."
Dieters? The anti-gluten brigade, perhaps? Never mind: Bella Brutta isn't out to make a good impression on them.
Bella Brutta, 135 King St, Newtown, NSW.