Pizza. NY, wood fired, deep dish. You name it, we love it. The basic ingredients are some of the best comfort foods in their own right and with the endless possibility of weird and wonderful additions and combinations, it’s hard to get bored. Salami, bacon, broccoli, feta, peppers, pineapple, chilli, pumpkin, even chocolate. Whatever your preference, there’s no doubt that someone, somewhere, is putting it together and serving it up. It’s also difficult to get it completely wrong. Even when pizza is ‘bad’, it’s usually still kinda good.
Now we’re all for trying the local cuisine whenever we’re somewhere new; we all but lived on curry for much of our time in Sri Lanka. But inevitably, such rich and sometimes same-y food gets a bit much and you need a good, old fashioned fish & chips, spag bol or whatever you usually treat yourself with when you’re at home on a Saturday night.
For us, that dish is pizza. Just short of considering ourselves pizza connoisseurs, it’s safe to say we’ve eaten a lot of it. After spending a month in New Zealand and in between preparing our own meals, cooked on the single hob in the back of our camper van, we realised we’d eaten more pizza than we cared to admit. If you love pizza as much as us, you might want to take a look at our top 5 pizza experiences in NZ..
1. Pizza Base, Little High Eatery, Christchurch
Little High Eatery houses a small group of restaurant counters serving up sushi, burgers, meats, pizza and much more, in one trendy food court-type set up. While one eye did stray towards the pork belly bao bun on our way in (more on that later), we headed straight for Pizza Base.
The great thing about Pizza Base is that they offer ‘small’ pizzas. If you’re like us and enjoy trying multiple things, this means you can gooble down your pizza and there’ll definitely be room for something else. There’s a few flavours to choose from and we went for the pepperoni, which is our go to topping and firm favourite. As soon as we picked it up, we eyed the thin crust and base, generous helping of pepperoni and fresh basil littered across the top, approvingly.
As impressed as we were at the sight of it, the pizza surpassed all expectations. The cheese was juicy, the crust perfectly crisp and the pepperoni a touch spicier than you’d usually get, which all sent it sky rocketing to the top of our list. We wolfed it down and seriously considered ordering another one to share, before deciding that with such a lot on offer, we should probably branch out and try something else.
On a non-pizza related note, we did try the pork belly bao afterwards and it was a very worthy contender; a soft bao bun stuffed full to the brim with tender, melt in your mouth pork, fresh coriander and a scattering of crushed cashews, we would highly recommend it (as a starter or dessert accompaniment to your pizza, of course).
2. Tommy Million, Wellington
Tommy Million is no secret in Wellington. Though it’s nothing more than a stand on the main street, with no seating other than the normal town benches, it’s reputation forgoes the need for any frills. The pizza is either sold by the slice (a big bonus for us) or as a huge singular pizza and comes in about 6 flavours.
We tried almost all of them and, as usual, the pepperoni came up trumps, but we also loved the mushroom special. It’s open until 5am, so it’s perfect for a late night pit stop after a night out at one of the many bars.
3. Astrolabe, Mount Maunganui
In Mount Maunganui we chanced upon a laid back pub with a large outside area, on our way back from the beach. This time, we weren’t even really considering pizza until one passed by our table. The menu itself lists it as ‘really big pizza’ and they’re not exaggerating. They are enormous and come in some more experimental flavours. Committed as we are to our life as pizza lovers, we decided we had to try one.
We settled on sharing a half and half pizza; onion jam, pumpkin, feta and pine nuts on one side and pepperoni, blue cheese, walnuts and mushrooms on the other. Aside from being huge, it was crispy, generously topped and all elements were cooked perfectly. The only negative we have is if you’re heading out for drinks afterwards, we wouldn’t recommend getting one to yourself. Just one half was enough to knock us into a food coma for the rest of the evening and send us heading home to bed!
4. Cinema Paradiso, Wanaka
Okay so admittedly, it wasn’t necessarily the pizza itself that warrants this one’s place in the top 5; but our whole experience at Cinema Paradiso was just great from start to finish. If you know us, yummy food and a movie is pretty much our perfect combo and Wanaka’s cinema is not your typical venue. Instead of regular seating, the cosy room is set out as a jumble of sofas, chairs and bean bags, the perfect place to sit back and enjoy.
We ordered our pizza before the movie, requesting heavy customisation which the staff cheerfully agreed to, and 15 minutes later we were whisking it off to our sofa.
Another non-pizza related highlight of Paradiso, is that every film has an interval midway through, in which freshly baked cookies and ice cream are on offer. We ended up getting three; one chocolate chip each and one double chocolate chip to share for good measure. If it’s a rainy day in Wanaka and you’re into good food and a good film, Cinema Paradiso is not to be missed!
5. Sal’s NY Pizza, Auckland
We inadvertently came across Sal’s, which is a short walk from the city centre in Parnell, on our way back from lunch. It was our last day in NZ and even though we were half stuffed full of sushi, we decided to round off the trip with one last pizza.
As the name suggests, Sal’s is set out in the style of a New York diner and prides itself on using ingredients shipped over from the US.
Again, these pizzas can be bought by the slice, or if you’re feeling brave, their whole pizzas are hefty 18 inches. True to form we ordered the pepperoni, which was a delicious mix of soft dough, melted cheese and lots of pepperoni. We’ve spent a lot of time in NY and can attest to this being as close to an authentic NY pizza as you’re going to get, outside the city itself. When you’re there, make sure you also grab a couple of garlic knots, they’re perfect for sharing or as a side and, with the accompanying tub of ‘Legendary’ sauce, they’re pretty irresistible. We got a slice of pizza each, three knots and a drink for 15NZD. The perfect way to conclude our pizza tour of New Zealand!