A little Perth cafe with a big Italian heart makes the world's best pizza - that's official, writes David Whitley.
WHAT Delizioso Cafe
WHERE Perth, Western Australia
HOW MUCH From $4 to $5.90 for pizza by the slice and from $14 to $22 for a full pizza.
WHY Where do you go for the best pizza in the world? Naples? Rome, perhaps? Even Chicago? Well, no - believe it or not, the world's best pizza-maker can be found in a small cafe in Perth.
And that's official.
Delizioso is owned by Raffaele Brotzu, a man with a habit of winning prizes for his pizzas. He's won the West Australian Dairy Farmers Best of the Best Pizza Challenge three times and the national competition once.
In 2008, he went one further, winning the much sought-after Pizza Festiva award at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas.
This is the world's biggest pizza convention and the prize is the dough-and-toppings equivalent of an Olympic gold medal. This win came despite the fact many of the ingredients Raffaele prefers to use were not available in the States - he likes to source the very best from Italy.
You'd expect the home of such an all-conquering champion to be a bit more palatial but the Delizioso is quite restrained. It's just off the main drag in Subiaco and it's a compact, cheery but otherwise unremarkable joint. On the wall there's a sign that reads "It's official - best pizza in Australia ... Make that the world!" but that's the only bragging in sight.
Quite rightly, the food does the talking. Delizioso specialises in pizzas by the slice and they're as far away from the congealed horror stories of Kings Cross as it's possible to imagine.
Inside the glass cabinet is a riot of colour, with the cacciatores and capreses sitting alongside more unusual ones such as a potato pizza. They cost between $4 and $5.90 a slice and, boy, are they good.
Raffaele and his team manage to get the base just right - it's crisp but packed with taste - while it's the little additions that make the toppings work.
The dash of chilli on the cacciatore and the sprinkling of herbs on the potato give both slices that extra dimension.
This didn't happen by accident. Raffaele has spent years learning the art of pizza-making and it all started at home. He comes from an Italian family that loves cooking - and the enthusiasm caught on.
He's originally from Rome and studied at a prestigious pizza-making school in the Italian capital. He then started working for the director of the school - widely regarded as the best pizza-maker in Italy.
Raffaele came to Australia in 2000, did a business-management course in Perth and the Delizioso is the eventual result.
Delizioso is open in the evenings from Wednesday to Saturday. This is the best time to try out the big boys.
Raffaele's award-winners are not always on sale - many of them are dependent on seasonal ingredients - but his world-champion three-mushroom-and-ricotta pizza is usually on the menu.
To be honest, this one's a bit of an acquired taste - predictably, much depends on how much you like mushroom and ricotta cheese.
But the national title-winner is absolutely sensational. It uses cooked rockmelon on the base instead of tomato sauce and is topped with taleggio cheese and prosciutto imported from Italy. It sounds odd but it works - the prosciutto and the melon, in particular, complement each other brilliantly.
That said, half the fun is in working your way through the menu - Delizios has a great mixture of the classic and the innovative. The regular customers have a tendency to try something different now and again.
To get the very best for such reasonable prices makes Delizioso a secret worth knowing about - it may not be shouting about itself from the rooftops but this is how pizza should be.
FREE STUFF It's not exactly free but there's the equivalent of a free slice or two with the eight-slice mixed tray. It's the perfect opportunity to taste a range of Raffaele's creations and costs $32.
ADDED BONUS The success of Delizioso in Subiaco has led to Raffaele opening a second store in Carillon City, the shopping centre in the heart of Perth.
DETAILS Shop 4, 94 Rokeby Road, Subiaco, phone (08) 9381 7796.