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The hunt for SA's fave pizzeria is on. Vote and you could win pizza for a year

With the Porcupine Ridge Pizzeria Challenge 2022 now on, Hilary Biller chats to some of last year's winners and dishes on how you can get in line to win

10 July 2022 - 00:00
A pizza from one of last year's winners, Ferdinando's in Cape Town.
A pizza from one of last year's winners, Ferdinando's in Cape Town.
Image: Supplied

Pizza tops the list of the most popular foods in the world, with more than 5-billion consumed globally each year. South Africans love them as much as their international counterparts, though there’s much debate about what constitutes the perfect pizza and what should never be used as a topping.

The Porcupine Ridge Pizzeria Challenge is a quest to crown SA's favourite pizzeria. Last year, Gino’s in Robertsham, Johannesburg, took the top prize with Ferdinando’s in Observatory, Cape Town, being the runner up.

Gino (Biagino) Mazza and his daughter Giulietta with Karen Henschel.
Gino (Biagino) Mazza and his daughter Giulietta with Karen Henschel.
Image: Supplied

Gino’s is something of an institution — an old favourite that has stood the test of time and proudly celebrates its 40th anniversary next year. Though the restaurant, which opened in 1983, was the brainchild of eldest son Gino (Biagino) Mazza, the entire family, from father Guiseppe (Babbo) to mom Antonia, as well as sisters Carmela and Maria, and youngest brother Domenico (Dom), were drawn into the business in true Italian style. Today there are two family-run restaurants.

The original remains in the heart of Robertsham and is run by Gino and Carmela. His two daughters help at weekends and in school holidays. Babbo and Antonia have retired and spend their time between their village, Monte San Giacomo in the south of Italy, and SA.

The second Gino’s opened in Stellenbosch in 1996 with Dom in charge. This operation made the Pizza Challenge Top 10 last year.

Mazza was delighted with the victory: “It was a tremendous validation of what we do, which is to provide delicious Italian food made with passion and which is good value for money.”

He says the establishment’s best seller and signature pizza is the Chiattona, “the one with everything, as customers affectionately call it”. For him, a pizza has to have a good crust and quality cheese and ingredients. His favourite toppings are bacon, anchovies, olives and onions, and he believes, somewhat controversially, that anything that can be put on a slice of bread can be used as a topping.

Kimon (Kiki) Bisogno and Diego Milesi of Ferdinando’s with their daughter.
Kimon (Kiki) Bisogno and Diego Milesi of Ferdinando’s with their daughter.
Image: Supplied

The 2021 runner-up was Ferdinando’s, a quirky and colourful restaurant which was born when Kimon (Kiki) Bisogno, a South African artist, met Italian Diego Milesi during her international travels. They fell in love, relocated to the Mother City, decided to share their love of pizza with Capetonians and started a “secret pizzeria” in their home before moving into formal premises. And who is Ferdinando? He’s their four-legged, furry child, who patrols the premises keeping an eye on things.

Says Bisogno: “This year we celebrate 10 years of making pizza. It has been a journey of love and passion. We started in our apartment on Loader Street and now we have a 70-seater restaurant. We are proud. It’s all about love and being true to who we are.” Their best-selling pizza is the Classic Diavola, spicy Italian salami on a margarita base, while the signature offering is the Turbanite, grilled baby marrow, homemade caramelised onion jam and feta.

Any tips for pizza lovers: “Pizza must be eaten hot and fuss-free, in good company or alone — it must satisfy on all levels, a good crust, some depth to the tomato flavour ... and always a hint of spice.” The Ferdinando’s duo also believes in giving back. Their Observatory Pasta Kitchen is five years old and it’s how they give back to the less fortunate in Observatory.

  • Gino’s, 126 Harry Street, Robertsham. Contact: 011 680 1819.
  • Gino’s De Kelder, 63 Dorp St, Stellenbosch. Contact: 021 887 9786
  • Ferdinando’s Pizza, 205 Lower Main Road, Observatory, Cape Town. Contact: 084 771 0485

THE COMPETITION

The Porcupine Ridge Pizzeria Challenge runs until September 30. Voters  stand a chance to win weekly prizes, and a grand prize of a pizza oven plus wine and pizza for a year.

The top 10 pizzerias win bragging rights, plus wine.

For more information on the prizes, eligibility and how to vote, visit votepizza.wine.

THREE THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT PIZZA

  1. Neapolitan chef Raffaele Esposito is often given credit for making the first pizza, though street vendors in Naples sold flatbreads with toppings for many years before then. In 1889 Esposito dedicated a pizza to Margherita di Savoia, the Queen of the Kingdom on Naples and wife of Umberto I, and the ingredients honoured the Italian flag — tomato sauce for the red, mozzarella for the white and basil for the green.
  2. Some bizarre pizza toppings from around the globe include haggis (Scotland), reindeer meat (Finland), banana curry (Sweden), kangaroo (Australia) and a full English breakfast (UK). Pepperoni is the most popular topping in the US, yet in Japan it’s mayonnaise. It begs the question: what is SA’s favourite topping?
  3. Geoffrey Esper, who lives in Oxford in the UK, has an appetite for competition and holds the world record for eating the most pizza’s in 10 minutes — he got through nearly 20 regular offerings.

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