7 February 2024

Rosso Pepe kitchen takeover brings slice of heaven to Coledale RSL

| Dione David
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Claudio Russomanno at work at Rosso Pepe pop-up at Coledale RSL

For Claudio Russomanno of Rosso Pepe, pizza making is both art and science. Photos: Rosso Pepe.

On a busy day at Coledale RSL, Claudio Russomanno and his team from Rosso Pepe can pump out around 200 pizzas to hungry patrons. The only problem is, they’re only there every two or three weeks – until now.

For the entire month of February, Rosso Pepe will take over the Coledale RSL kitchen, allowing them to expand on what’s usually a small but precise pizza menu served out of their mobile catering set-up to include other authentic Italian dishes, such as Sicilian-style arancini, calamari fritti, eggplant parmigiana, homemade focaccias, pastas, salads and desserts.

It answers a call from an increasingly loyal following.

“We’ve had such an amazing response from the Coledale community – they’re always asking for us, or when we’re going to be back,” Claudio says. “It’s rare for us not to sell out.”

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Customers have come to expect a lot from a Rosso Pepe pizza – a combination of crispy crunch and softness in the base, complemented by the correct amount of topping.

“And there is a ‘correct’ amount,” Claudio says. “The trouble with a lot of restaurants – particularly the more commercial setups – is that everybody thinks more is better. For me, that’s so wrong.

“We believe in spending more money on the highest quality ingredients and putting less on the pizza so that you can fully enjoy the toppings but also, importantly, you’re not overloading the base.

“We want people to taste our dough.”

And with good reason. There is absolutely an art – and science – to a Rosso Pepe pizza dough, perfected over many years.

It was at age 13 in his hometown of Soverato in Calabria, Italy, that Claudio first learned how to make pizza in an effort to help support the family.

“My mentor was the owner of a restaurant where my mother worked as a chef,” he says. “I spent the summer learning to make pizza, and I fell in love with it.”

He spent a further seven years learning “the science of bakery”, and this combination of practical and theoretical training is the reason that a Rosso Pepe pizza is fully digestible, even before it’s cooked.

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Maintaining a specific temperature is key to the integrity of the yeast as it does its essential work: too cold and it sleeps; too hot and it dies.

“In the first phase we’re trying to keep the temperature low and let enzymes do their job. That job is to break down the gluten, which is the biggest enemy of digestion. By breaking down the gluten, we’re transforming it into simple sugars,” he explains.

“When we let the dough proof, the yeast is looking for simple sugars to consume, and as it does so, it transforms itself into gases, which is why the dough rises.”

Pizza from Rosso Pepe

It takes days to make, but Rosso Pepe dough results in a light pizza base that’s all golden crunch outside and pillowy softness inside.

All in all, Rosso Pepe dough is temperature controlled for up to 72 hours before it’s allowed to rise to fully respect this fermentation process. The process results in a light pizza base that’s all golden crunch outside and pillowy softness inside, which doesn’t make diners feel heavy or bloated.

“We want people to feel good after they’ve eaten at Rosso Pepe,” Claudio says. “How you feel after is an important part of the experience.”

Rosso Pepe will take over the Coledale RSL kitchen from Thursday 1 to Wednesday 28 February. For more information, visit Coledale RSL, or stop by Thursdays to Sundays from 11 am at 731 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Coledale.

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