My girlfriend and I are always trying to find time to catch up - she lives in Willoughby and I'm way up north past Narrabeen, so we chose a half way point - the Forestville shops - AKA "The Centre". Let me apologise now to the good and hardworking shopkeepers and restaurateurs of "The Centre", but this mall really needs a nuclear bomb to detonate and destroy the lot, so that it can be rebuilt from scratch. The whole strip is just looking so tired and dated. Every shop looks sad and unloved and it was impossible for me to maintain eye contact with my friend as I kept getting distracted by the enormous cockroaches scuttling up and down the tree in the little planted area next to where we were sitting.
None of which is a reflection on Lucky and Peps. We sat outside, and, if the Centre were redeveloped, it would have been really pleasant as, unlike a lot of outdoor venues, there was no traffic whizzing by. There are seats inside as well, but the long, narrow layout of the premises makes the outside seats a better bet. We weren't overly hungry and decided to share a pizza and a salad. Good selection of both and the waitress helpfully advised us that we might as well go for the "Family" sized pizza as it was only $1 more. Good call, as the "Family" sized is not huge by any stretch. The Greek salad we ordered was excellent - perfect ratio of every ingredient (don't you hate it when you order a Greek Salad and there's literally 3 cubes of feta, so you have to fight over them?). This one was packed with big hunks of cucumber, tomato, feta and olives and the dressing was lovely and tangy. Big tick for the salad.
Unfortunately I can't say the same for the pizza. I almost suspect that they brought us the gluten free option by mistake as the texture of the base was more biscuity-crunchy, rather than semi- crispy and chewy. I love gluten. Bring it on. That's what makes sourdough and pizza bases so unctuous - this base tasted more like pastry than dough. We chose the Rocket and Proscuitto version and there was plenty of each ingredient, plus some shaved parmesan, so that was all fine. It's just that I want a more authentic base. Maybe I've been spoilt by wood fired pizzas, like the ones they do at the Newport. The Lucky and Pep owners (who I know have been proudly operating since 1979 which is a great achievement) could perhaps think about sending their pizza chefs off to the Newport for a bit of a sabbatical to pick up a few tips. Vinnie's pizzas at the Newport are the bizz. That's the kind of pizza I was imagining - that crunchy base with the charred bottom, but still that chewy after bite when you get to the fatter crust.
The good news is that we managed to have a fabulous night - courtesy of the outstanding wait staff. The young blond lady who served us (I'm going to get names next time), was absolutely delightful. She could not have been more helpful and eager to please. And then a lovely young man came out towards the end of the meal to check on us. He had such a bright and engaging manner - we felt very special. Another highlight was the bill. As Lucky and Peps is BYO, we only spent $30!!! My friend couldn't believe it. It would have been that much each if we'd eaten in Willoughby.
So, we've resolved to catch up once a month from now on. Will we go back to Lucky and Peps? I'm going to give them a few more goes. I'll order a pizza again, but this time making sure we aren't given a gluten free one by mistake, but if it's no better then I'll try a different dish. If that's a fizzer then we'll have to scout around for another "Centre" gem.
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