Russell’s Pizza in Willunga is somewhat of a legendary tradition in our family. So much so that our elder daughter, now living in the north of Australia, made an urgent phone call to me last month. ‘We’re coming home for Christmas – make sure you book us into Russell’s!’
The uniqueness of Russell’s Pizza is unquestionable. Firstly, everything on the menu is sourced locally and cooked in the pizza oven. Secondly, they are only open two days a week. Having run a traditional five day a week restaurant for many years ourselves, it’s impressive Russell’s can survive trading only two evenings per week. Thrive is a more accurate word – behind its modest front, Russell’s Pizza has Friday and Saturday nights buzzing in Willunga’s High Street.
In the early 90s Russell Jeavons renovated an old cottage and made a brick oven housed in a rainwater tank. His brick oven construction intrigued so many people he wrote a book, Your Brick Oven, Building it and Baking in it. His book is a testament to the remarkable man who founded and ran Russell’s Pizza for many years. I recall even on the busiest nights Russell, a local character seemingly so laid back with glass of wine in hand, would always make time to chat with customers about his cooking creations.
These days Russell’s Pizza operates under the guidance of different owners. They wisely ensure Russell’s spirit is still firmly entrenched. Customers are grateful that Russell’s traditional methods of cooking and rustic atmosphere prevail. It’s always a treat when we bring our overseas visitors to Russell’s – and we have lots of them – it’s unlike anything they have experienced.
Anyone who knows about pizza understands the traditional Italian style base is thin yet crisp. This is achieved first and foremost by the dough. It’s a fine art to balance the mixing, rolling and cooking of the crust. Secondly the integrity, amount and placing of ingredients on the pizza is crucial. Russell’s gets it right on both counts – pizzas are both light and super delicious – and beautifully finished with fresh herbs.
The outdoor areas are a big part of Russell’s. In winter, open fire pits create both essential warmth and a rustic atmosphere. Bookings are taken at 6 pm or 8 pm – perfectly understandable if your business model is only two days per week. Early booking diners usually move outside at 8 pm and sit around the fire.
Our family likes the three course option. It includes home made bread with dukkah and olive oil, salad, a vegetable appetiser (with the best roasted almonds I’ve ever tasted), lamb meatballs and as much pizza as you like followed by dessert. I’d return solely for the Sheep Milk Honey Panna Cotta with Poached Rhubarb – divine!
Where: Russell’s Pizza at 13 High Street Willunga 5172 is a 45 minute drive south of Adelaide’s city centre on the Fleurieu Peninsula
When: Friday and Saturday 6 pm or 8 pm bookings, phone +61 8 8556 2571
BYO drinks (local wine available)