Working from a portable pizza oven, Salopian Inn head chef Jimmy Toone and partner Jo Leal are serving up a select menu of wood-fired pizzas on the lawn of Aldinga’s Fall From Grace wine bar.
Don’t tell anyone but Secret Pizza Club is very good
The idea for the Secret Pizza Club (aka SPC) came about during the beginning of the COVID pandemic, just as Jimmy Toone and partner Jo Leal returned home from a trip through Japan.
“We got seats at the kitchen counter watching the one guy make every pizza order from start to finish – not in a rush, just trying to make every one as perfectly as possible,” Jimmy says.
“Eating a pizza there inspired me to purchase a Neapolitan-style portable pizza oven when we got back. All the restaurants were shut, so we started posting photos of our pizzas on Instagram, and friends and family reached out about having some.”
Having returned to Australia at the start of what became a long shut-down period for many restaurants and cafés, Jo and Jimmy took advantage of their free time by experimenting with different flavour combinations. Eventually, thanks to word of mouth, they started delivering around the neighbourhood, and became so popular the venture quickly became both of their full-time jobs.
Jimmy had always been passionate about cooking but chose to attend university to study a double degree in health sciences and teaching. In what could only be described as foreshadowing, his first job whilst studying was making pizzas at a restaurant in McLaren Vale. Eventually, he dropped out of his degree to follow his passion for food and hospitality work, later travelling overseas around Europe – picking up new techniques and ways of cooking.
“One of the most valuable things a young chef can do is just go and see how people eat and how they cook. What is an everyday meal in France is very different to what we eat here in Australia, or Vietnam or Thailand,” he says.
“My parents aren’t surprised at all that I’m a chef – I was always cooking. I went to a private school that was very academic that had a lot of focus on going to university. But I’m glad I did go because I met lifelong friends there.”
Currently, Jimmy works as the head chef at the renowned Salopian Inn, alongside co-director of Tasting Australia, Karena Armstrong. Balancing working at both the Salopian and SPC is a handful, but he takes it in his stride, and his experience has brought a buzz to the pizza upstart.
Partnering with Fall from Grace, a bottle shop and wine bar based in Aldinga, was as a natural step forward in the progression of SPC. Having been regular customers at the bar, Jimmy and Jo struck up a friendship with former owner Gill Gordon Smith, who pushed them to set up a pop-up pizzeria at Fall from Grace.
The pop-up has been running since November last year to stellar feedback, and currently runs fortnightly on Thursdays. Margot Muir, the new owner of the wine bar, is more than happy to keep the pizza party going.
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“Gill was always on our case to do a pop-up after seeing our pizzas online, and we thought we could make something accessible for people as well. There’s no bells and whistles, you get a nice bottle of wine and a pizza for a very reasonable price,” he said.
“So far every pop-up has been a success and it gives people down south something to do on a night out.”
Jimmy says he doesn’t really know how to sit still, so there are additional pop-ups in the works, including with Goodwood bar Good Gilbert. He and Jo also plan to cater for weddings and other functions.
SPC has around five pizza variations on offer at each pop-up, and there is one in particular that holds a place in Jimmy’s heart.
“I love a margherita with a tin of anchovies on the side,” he says. “We always have available some Ortiz anchovy tins on a board with a lemon wedge. A little squeeze of lemon and some anchovies on the crust of margherita and I’m happy.”
You can keep up do date with the Secret Pizza Club here.