You may remember this Lygon Street pizzeria when it was known as La Bussola; an Italian bistro that changed very little over the decades. With its charmingly outdated shiny brown floor tiles, exposed brick walls and chunky chandeliers, it came to represent an old guard of Brunswick eateries – the sort of place you'd rely on for a quick takeaway or a mid-week dinner down the road.
Beyond the neon-crowned shopfront, nothing much has changed about Compass Pizza. The new owners are the crew behind Northcote’s Wesley Anne and the nearby Edinburgh Castle, and even the name – which is the English translation of La Bussola – is statement of an intent to update, not overhaul, an old favourite. The space remains unapologetically old-school, with classic vinyl tunes stirring memories of suburban family pizza nights.
But while the fitout is refreshingly no-frills, you’re really here for chef Joseph Nauer’s generous Italian fare. The menu is classic to its bones, save for a few contemporary touches, like the option of vegan cheese and gluten-free bases, and the announcement of organic and free-range produce. Even most of the prices are from a few decades back.
The pizzas – cooked in La Bussola's electric oven – are the true stars of this show (and don't forget, you can still order them to take home). The dough recipe is another of those great legacies from the La Bussola days: the chewy, just-charred bases are topped in moderation. The potato number is a stand-out. Spuds are sliced ever-so-thinly, to keep it in the realm of lightness, while swathes of Taleggio pack a cheesy punch and caramelised onions and leeks offer their own sweetness.
Get your pasta fix with a daily special like the hand-made pumpkin ravioli. Doused in a rich brown butter sauce, the parcels are textbook thick and filled with restraint, a sprinkling of crushed almonds and crisped oregano sprigs lending crunch.
A small, Australian wine list plays second fiddle to an impressively craft-laden beer line-up, but it doesn’t matter too much – good pizza and a good brew make such a swell match that you’re more likely to be washing down that crust with a Cavalier Brown Ale, than with a Cooper Burns Riesling from the Eden Valley.
The crowd is fairly low-key: the deeply etched tables are occupied by a mix of feasting families, budgeting date-nighters and other young, inner north types. Sure, there mightn’t be much new or shiny about it, but Compass Pizza serves as a neat reminder that kicking it old-school has plenty of perks.