Adding a pizza joint to the Casa stable was a long-held plan, says co-owner and WAGFG Chef of the Year 2024, Paul Bentley. When the two-star Mount Hawthorn favourite was conceived, the next-door space became available, and plans started to form. “It was just a question of time,” Bentley says of the project’s long gestation. Casa Pizzeria has emerged very much its own thing, distinct from its sister restaurant and its other pizza-adjacent sibling, Si Paradiso. In essence, it’s a pizza shop where you can take away or eat at a handful of tables, ordering wine from Casa next door at bottle shop prices. While Bentley has had a storied career from Perth to New York, Mexico, and back to our shores, he’s fired up about the possibility of pizza, as we found when he talked to WAGFG.

Is there a school of thought that fits your direction at Casa Pizzeria?

There are classics done well, and then there are more modern takes. The dough is fermented for up to 96 hours, depending on how it looks and the time of year. It’s like that hybrid Neapolitan dough. We’ve done that so that you can transport it home and it doesn’t get soggy like a Neapolitan pizza.

So, different from Si Paradiso?

Yeah, the pizza at Si Paradiso is made to eat there, usually within 10 minutes, and it doesn’t transport as well. It’s all about the dough. But eat [Casa Pizzeria] straight away or get it home. The feedback we’ve had is that everyone’s been pumped, it transports well, and it eats great. It’s been a pretty big learning curve with a lot of adjustments to get to this point and to keep the same look and feel that we’re happy with.

It’s all about the dough, then?

Well, with any dough, you want a good fermentation, but then you want to use the best available products – San Marzano tomatoes and great cheese. It’s not just a straight flour out of a bag – we add a little bit of wholemeal. It’s evolved with time. So, depending on the season and the weather, the dough changes. Recipe-wise, three times a year, you’ll get these slight changes but nothing too dramatic.

Casa’s reputation is as much about the wine as the food. Is there a different approach to Casa Pizzeria?

Wines should maybe be a bit more pizza-friendly and accessible, but you can buy any of our wines from next door and bring them in, or you can BYO from elsewhere with corkage.

Do you have an appropriate wine match for your favourite pizza?

Definitely. 100% it’s got to be Beaujolais.

The most divisive and commonly asked question on pizza is, where do you fall on the Hawaiian?

Pro pineapple all the way. We have one that’s been tweaked since the first opening. We have this northern Italian speck, so there’s that smoky cured ham, and then a habanero, pineapple salsa, almost like a gastrique [a sweet, sour sauce] but not as sweet. So, it’s got fruitiness and the heat from the habaneros, and then the pineapple, red base and fior di latte.

Is there any pizza style that you can’t get with?

There’s no such thing as a wrong pizza. Any pizza is good, depending on time and location – the drunk pizza slice from 7-Eleven on the way home or from the kebab shop. Everything has its time and place. 

I sense a but coming.

Yeah, that American thing should die, the deep-dish square ones. As I said, pizza is subjective, and there’s no such thing as a bad pizza. Everyone’s been guilty of ordering a Domino’s and hungover on a Sunday afternoon. A Domino’s is sometimes great, but I’ll never order a thick Detroit or square pizza. If I want that much bread, I’ll have a sandwich. It’s not my jam at all.

So, the thinner, the better?

Commercial pizza is thin and crispy all the way. When someone is making dough, I want to see some structure; I want to see some beautiful hydration. I want to have charred spots, and I want to have a balance of flavours that round out the eating experience. I don’t want to feel. I need to take a nap after I’ve eaten a pizza.

You’re selling pizza, but do you have any hot takes for the growing number of home pizza chefs who’ve invested in an oven?

I’ve got a couple of mates who I sell dough to. They’ve got Gozney’s and stuff, and while I’m not going to go into business selling dough, I’ll sell them balls of dough for home. But you know you can run your own dough program, and you can also make epic sourdough. It’s a great starter that you can jig into a pretty sick sourdough, especially if it’s gone past 96 to 100 hours, as it’s got great acidity to it. It’s a no-waste product. It’s a win-win situation.

Are there any common mistakes from the weekend pizza warriors?

Temperature. We always burn a disk in the oven first. I get [the oven] hot, and I’ll burn the first one through just to see how the heat is distributing on the dough. Remember, the oven is the easiest variable to control. But you’ll never succeed if the dough isn’t well hydrated, well fermented, and at the right temperature. The oven is a part of it, but there are a lot more factors that have a bigger role.

Is that room temperature when you say the dough needs to be at the right temperature?

Depends on the room. If it’s 40 degrees, then no. It’s out for less time. If the weather is cooler, it may sit out for 2 hours before you use it. You want to see the dough come back to life, that it’s a little bit easier to handle, and that it’ll stretch without effort.

Read more: Perfect Pizzerias

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