Nestled in the Fitzroy North village shopping strip, Red Olive has everything a neighbourhood restaurant should – comfort food done well, unexceptional prices, an amiable buzz and always a spare table.
If anything, the service sets Red Olive apart. It's reliably knowledgeable, attentive and friendly.
Housed in what seems like an old garage, the cavernous space has been made cosy by the central bar encasing the wood-fired pizza oven and some bizarre, Gaudi-esque ceiling decorations. However, there's still a fair amount of concrete, so the accompanying acoustics are on the noisy side. Not unacceptable levels, but enough that this might not the spot for a romantic rendezvous.
In fact, it's always a mixed crowd, and that's part of the appeal. There is always a family or two, a few duos dotted around and at least one celebratory table.
From the traditionally topped thin wood-fired pizza bases, favourites would have to be the Prosciutto (prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, olives and rocket) and the Salame (salame, pesto, gorgonzola).
More adventurous pizza options include the St George (pork sausage, sopressa, peppers, onion, mushroom and chilli) and Mediterranea (roast lamb, peppers, onion, feta, rosemary, cherry tomatoes and yoghurt).
Of the pastas, the Pappardelle con ragu (three meat ragu with pesto and pecorino) and the light-as-air Gnocchi Florentina (spinach gnocchi, mushroom and pinenuts) deliver a satisfying bowl of carbo-loaded goodness.
Those on the hunt for something lighter or more substantial are also catered for - look out for the wood-fired roasts. There's a good selection of local and imported wines, again at reasonable prices and a small, but satisfying dessert menu - so all bases are covered for a local night out.