The old adage don't judge a book by its cover is taken to a whole new level when it comes to Pellegrini Italian pizzeria-restaurant. It is an unassuming, no frills, hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the quiet suburban streets of Oxley. If I had simply driven past this shopfront with its fluorescent, generic signage, without a recommendation from a friend, I would have kept on driving.
And likewise upon entering this simple establishment; let me put it this way - you certainly wouldn't visit Pellegrini for the dining experience unless small, crowded rooms with zero ambience float your boat. To be fair they've done what they can with the limited space they have - the interior is decorated very simply and there are only a half dozen tables, but it is clean and family friendly if you choose to dine in.
Like any restaurant there are a lot of mixed reviews out there about Pellegrini from the 'best Italian in Brisbane' to the 'worst Italian in Brisbane', and everything in between. Various reviews have also cited Pellegrini as the 'most authentic Italian in Brisbane' and conversely, the 'least authentic Italian in Brisbane'; so, does Pellegrini serve authentic Italian cuisine? The answer is how on earth would I know?
Now next to Mexican, Italian is my favourite cuisine and having been to Italy and experienced it in its authentic element, I have long been on the prowl for an Italian restaurant in Brisbane that serves food even slightly resembling the real deal. The restaurants that I suspect may serve something spectacularly Italian, would also it seems, cost me a weeks wage. I shan't name names, but I did splurge once for my birthday and dine at an upmarket Italian restaurant in Paddington - suffice to say I was bitterly disappointed with what I got for my hard earned money and remain unconvinced of its authenticity. I've come to the conclusion that the only ones truly qualified to judge the authenticity of an Italian restaurant are Italians.
My limited Italian experience tells me however, that authentic Italian food is fresh, simple, seasonal and full of flavour; and I believe Italians are gifted in that regard - making something that is essentially simple, taste so damn good. Of course food in Italy varies from region to region but a common denominator definitely seems to be freshness. Pellegrini's semi-open kitchen plan affords patrons the chance to witness their food being made fresh right in front of their eyes.
Pellegrini doesn't have a website so unfortunately you won't find a menu online, but it is fairly extensive, and has all the usual offerings you might expect from an Italian pizzeria-restaurant. Starters include pizza breads (garlic, herb or cheese in small, medium or large), salads and a half dozen seafood dishes including Garlic Prawns and 3 different calamari dishes. We usually go for a small Garlic Pizza Bread ($3.50) which is light, soft and has a delicious chewy texture.
Mains on offer include various chicken, veal and steak dishes served with fresh vegetables and potatoes (average $22), and a score of traditional pastas such as lasagne, spaghetti bolognese or carbonara, and various fettucine, penne, rigatoni and risotto varieties (average $14.50). I alternate between the Canneloni Pumpkin ($14.50) and Penne Arabiata ($13.50). The Canneloni is soft, fat and packed full of soft, sweet pumpkin, garlic and a little spinach, then topped with a bechamel, Pellegrini tomato sauce and a heap of mozzarella - it's delicious and incredibly filling.
When I'm feeling a little more calorie conscious I go for the Arabiata; al dente penne pasta with mushrooms, onion, garlic, capsicum, olive and chilli in a sweet, generous serving of Pellegrini tomato sauce.
There are a dozen pizza varieties which come in small ($8), medium ($14) and large ($18); my husband can't go past the Vegetarian Pizza and claims it's the best pizza in Brisbane. I'm not entirely convinced of that, but it's definitely in my Top 5. All of Pellegrini pizzas are made with mozzarella, homemade tomato salsa and oregano, the toppings are fresh, and the crust is very tasty, soft and somewhere between thin and thick.
To me, the food at Pellegrini feels like fresh, quality, home cooked fare; nothing fancy or even mind-blowingly amazing but good, simple, flavoursome, value for money food. Don't expect complicated dishes, or pizzas piled high with toppings, in fact best to have no expectations whatsoever, just give it a go.
Pellegrini is open Tuesday - Thursday from 4.30pm til late. If ordering takeaway be sure to phone in your order to avoid a long wait time, as they do make the food fresh, and it is a popular spot with locals - and non-locals for that matter, we regularly drive 20 minutes each way for Pellegrini. And if you're dining in (it's BYO), be sure to book a table on 3379 3366.