The Gem has always delivered good times, pumping music and delicious smokehouse eats.
But in 2020, Collingwood’s beloved pub has decided to change things up a little. Cue esteemed mobile kitchen operators, Fugazi Pizza.
You’d know them from their various kitchen takeovers and festival pop-ups across different locations around Melbourne. Now they’ve found a new home at The Gem.
Known for their smokehouse delicacies, head chef Andy Craig has taken the much-loved blueprint and added a little Fugazi flavour.
“We started in January. We wanted to do a bit of a soft opening to try and get it all right first. I think we’re on track now and have gained a bit of a following here.
“I was talking to Phillip, the owner, and he said that he wanted to keep a bit of the previous menu, but also change it up a bit,” Craig explains. “That’s when we had the opportunity to come and take over the kitchen and try to mash the two together.”
Prior to Fugazi Pizza setting up shop at The Gem, low and slow barbeque squad, Limp Brisket, were plating up at the venue. Shifting from American BBQ to Italian fare, Fugazi have been doing what they do best – cooking up wood-fired pizza that’s ambitious and fresh.
“We do wood-fired pizza, but recently we’ve acquired a deck oven from America which allows us to do Neapolitan-style crust with a crispy New York-style base, with smoked items on top.”
They’re still giving the smoker a good run for its money, but just in a different and not-so-traditional way. Their pulled pork brisket is one example of this – an ingredient that’s proven to be a Fugazi pizza’s perfect accompaniment.
“We’ve put our own spin on the smoked items,” Craig says. “But, of course, we’re using all traditional techniques and fermentation of the dough, but not-so-traditional toppings.”
There’s a selection of Fugazi pizzas you can grab at The Gem which you’ll find on their regular menu, but they’ve also created a few specially for the venue.
“Our menu at The Gem is different from the menu we regularly run for music festivals and so on. The brisket pizza with béchamel, smoked scamorza, kimchi, habanero mayo and brisket, as well as the pickle pie pizza with smoky eggplant, coconut puree, vegan mozzarella, seasonal pickled vegetables, you can only get at The Gem and not from our other menus. The pickle pie is a vegan pizza, with smoked eggplant and house-made pickles. We also use really good vegan mozzarella.
Besides the Fugazi pizzas that you can get exclusively at The Gem, there’s also four others you can choose from, including their famous margherita, the Bon Chovi, Happy Little Vegemite and the Shrooms. If you’re feeling extra hungry, go for the parma – a pork cutlet doused with provolone, pickled vegetables, Napoli sauce and chips.
From the smoked menu, you can opt for hot wings with gorgonzola and dill ranch, as well as vinegar-glazed lamb ribs with salsa verde.
The Gem is also known for their live music steeped in Americana. Welcoming high calibre acts from both home and abroad, genres span everything from rockabilly to honky-tonk, rock’n’roll to garage.
In March, The Gem is celebrating local favourites The ReChords’ 10th anniversary with a residency from the band as part of Saddle Up Sundays. The hillbilly rockers did much of their best work at The Gem in their early days, even before the now popular Saddle Up Sundays became a thing. Now, they make their return.
Other highlights of March include two big nights of garage and rock’n’roll from The Exotics and The Breadmakers. The roots of Jeb Cardwell & The Dream Deal will be on full show on Friday March 20, while renowned troubadour Gavin Bowels will be back with his band the following night.
Check out The Gem at 289 Wellington Street, Collingwood, open from Tuesday to Sunday. Find out more via The Gem’s website.