Suzi: Hi, I’m here to see Chris...
Chris: I’m Chris...
S: I don’t remember him being so good looking! This is going to be hard to concentrate — I’m already sleep-deprived and have baby brain.
S: I love The Forge and everyone I chat with about food loves The Forge. You guys are making Ballarat fat and proud. When did you realise one of your greatest gifts to
humanity was pizza?
C: I must have only been 16, but I can remember making my deb and one of the questions asked of me as “What would you like to be?” I replied a pizza man and have my own place.
S: But you took your time — I had to eat Maccas (agggh!) as my best fast food for quite a few years...
C: I worked as a plasterer and Tim (Chris’ brother) worked in advertising and marketing in Melbourne and London. About two years ago, we started The Forge.
Now we’ve added Rich (another sexy pizza man) to the team.
S: Where did you learn to make such awesome pizza?
C: I went to Melbourne and trained with Simon Liston. He and his four brothers have a pizzeria in Malvern Road called Fratellino, which means “little brother”. They learnt
off an Italian pizza god, Frank from Il Caminetto, which means “little fire”. Frank has three pizza palaces in Melbourne, the closest to us being in Moonee Ponds.
S: Now your team are the pizza gods, how many staff do you employ?
C: Two full-time, three part-time and we’re up to 30 casuals.
S: How many in the pizza cave on a busy night?
C: On a Friday, it’s about six in the cave, one out the back on kitchen duties and the rest on the cash register and floor.
S: What’s your PB (personal best) in one night?
C: In the shop, it’s 380 pizzas — about one every 45 seconds. Then, at the Ballarat Beer Festival, we did over 750. It was great fun and we even had Mum being a runner in the van, back and forth with bits and pieces.
S: Does the pizza oven have a name?
C: We call it Nigel after the man who built it for us. We also have the travelling pizza oven, which we call the rolling oven, and we use it for corporate events and festivals.
S: Do you remember your first pizza?
C: It was at Pizza Hut and it was Hawaiian, hold the pineapple.
S: Isn’t that an Aussie, hold the egg? Which leads to my next question — do you get a lot of pizza bogans asking for the deep pan, cheese crust and extra barbeque sauce?
C: We always encourage people to read the menu but a lot of customers will see the pizza sign, then just walk in and ask for the Pizza Hut-style numbers. We don’t do
chicken pizza for that reason or barbeque sauce or half-and-half. The closest we do to that style is the Anvil. People ask for double topping and we do it, but it’s tragic as the base becomes wet, stodgy and can even end up with holes.
S: Yes peeps, please understand the pizza at The Forge is the real deal, just like in Italy — not the tragic stuffed crust atrocity most of us have been used to. You have to try it and, believe me, you will love it.
S: Okay, Tim and Rich, the people want to know where you guys go for a beer and pub meal?
Tim and Rich: We go to The Mallow — there’s
a great selction of beer and they also sell The Rat beer. The food is great and not at all your average pub fare.
S: For brekkie?
T&R: We love L’espresso for the eggs benny and Eclectic Tastes for the Harris’s brekkie.
S: And for a romantic rendezvous?
T&R: Tim is liking Red Peppa on Sturt Street but Chris is taking the girls to Ballarat Steakhouse (I’m liking him more every minute) and Rich likes Chat for Tea.
The boys were good enough to share their secret dough recipe with me but I’m taking it to the grave. Let me just say it’s about quality and love of tradition. Great ingredients, too — flour, sea salt, good olive oil, and local produce like Meredith goat’s cheese and Jay
from Meat N More’s lamb. And, finally, yes it’s true — the boys are opening another Forge Pizzeria in Armstrong Street in the old CV Jones antique shop.