The competition hots up in the Porcupine Ridge Pizzeria Challenge

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With only eight weeks to go before voting closes, this year’s Porcupine Ridge Pizzeria Challenge is hotter than a wood-fired oven, with a close tussle for the top spot between last year’s winner Ferdinando’s (Observatory, Cape Town), 2021 winner and last year’s runner up, Gino’s (of Robertsham, Johannesburg) and Gino’s in Stellenbosch which is currently in the lead.

Not far behind and closing in fast however is Corlie’s Italian, a Somerset West-based restaurant that did not feature in last year’s top 20 finalists, but which clearly has a loyal fan base who absolutely love the restaurant’s pizzas, as well as the other offerings on the menu, and are determined to see their favourite pizzeria do well and get the recognition it deserves.

We sat down with co-owner Attie Esterhuyse over a freshly made pizza and a glass of chilled Porcupine Ridge Chardonnay and asked him a few questions.

How and when did Corlie’s Italian come about?

Corlie, my wife, decided to start selling homemade dried pasta at the Slow Market in Stellenbosch. The then market manager, Matthew Kruger, said that we should rather cook the pasta at the market and that’s how it all started, rolling out fresh pasta and cooking the dishes to order. We only had a small three-burner gas stove and a couple of cooler boxes, so Corlie’s was really started on a shoestring. That was in 2015. Two years later we added pizzas to the menu.

Tell us about your menu and what makes your pizzas so popular

From the start we strived to keep our food as authentic as possible. Our fresh pasta is made according to the recipe that only includes wheat flours and eggs. The correct ratios is what makes a good pasta. The same is true for our pizzas. We respect the tradition. We make Neapolitan style pizzas, and our dough is similar to what can be found in pizzerias in Naples. We also use only top-quality ingredients and we do not add any additives or other artificial ingredients to our recipes. Our pizza sauce is made in-house by making use of an imported Italian tomato pulp as the base. 

What is your signature pizza or best-seller?

Our signature pizza is our Margherita. All the ingredient flavours combine beautifully to make this probably one of the tastiest Margherita pizzas around. Other favourites are the Capricciosa (mozarella, artichoke, ham, olives, mushrooms), the Bacon & Avo and the Quattro Formaggi (mozarella, feta, grana pardano, gorgonzola).

You also feature White Pizzas on your menu, something which is not always offered in South African pizzerias.

White pizza or pizza bianca is a style of pizza that does not use tomato sauce as a base and generally consists of pizza dough, olive oil, garlic, cheese, salt and other toppings. We offer three options – the Bacon, Brie and Onion Marmalade, the Salsiccia (mozzarella, spinach, caramelised onions and house made Italian fennel and chilli sausage mince) and the Coppa, Gorgonzola and Green Figs.

What’s better, a thin crust or a thick crust?

A Neapolitan pizza is the best of both worlds with its puffed-up outer crust and super thin inner crust. Any pizza can be a good pizza if it is done correctly. Quality should always be the most important ingredient.

What is your personal favourite?

A white pizza with pepperoni and gorgonzola or one with salami and a hint of chilli and not too much cheese.

Is there anything that should never be on a pizza?

In a small town close to Naples, Franco Pepe is putting pineapple on his pizza and apparently the Italians are loving it. So, a Hawaiian surely is ok and South Africans are loving it too. Banana and avo baked in the oven sounds a bit wrong to me, but if done correctly anything can probably be put on a pizza.

What wine do you prefer to drink when eating a pizza?

A light white wine normally goes well with pizza. Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc are our favourites.

The Porcupine Ridge Pizzeria Challenge 2023 runs until September 30, with the Top 10 – and ultimate winner – announced in early November. The challenge is open to any restaurant offering pizza on their menu and holding a valid liquor license.
Consumers dining at participating restaurants can scan a QR code that prompts them to the voting platform or they can vote via the website at

Each week, one lucky voter wins a case of Porcupine Ridge wine as well as an EarthFire Pizza Stone & Cutter valued at R1 200, while a grand prize-winner, drawn at the end of the challenge, receives five cases of Porcupine Ridge wine, an EarthFire Pizza TableTop Oven and pizza for a year from their favourite pizzeria, all valued at R8 000.

Corlie’s Italian is located at Unit G04, Paardevlei Rising 3, 8 Gardner Williams Ave, Paardevlei, Somerset West. Telephone 071 167 7081.

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