Juta Street in Braamfontein is slowly becoming one of the hippest places in Johannesburg. Surrounded by colourful and recently renovated student accommodation and walking distance from the Neighbourgoods Market, Kitchener’s Carvery Bar and a number of hipsteresque specialist shops, ‘86 Public is the first pizza joint in Braamfontein, and one of the only specialist pizza places in Johannesburg.
Although the name ‘86 Public refers to the year in which Johannesburg was founded and declared ‘public diggings’, there’s nothing primitive about the little eatery. With big glass windows, wooden surfaces and steel finishes, ‘86 Public has a distinctly urban feel, accentuated by scores of skateboarders gliding by.
If you don’t have an intense hankering for a good slice, there’s really no point in visiting ‘86 Public. With nothing but 23 pizzas to choose from, pizza lovers are bound to find something to tickle the taste buds while weight watchers and the gluten-intolerant look on sadly.
The base is thin and supple, with just the right amount of crunch in the crust to give you that oh-my-goodness feeling. The toppings are ample, sometimes worryingly so, considering some of the menu offerings have up to 10 toppings. Although ‘86 Public offers a large variety of pizzas, purists will be happy to hear that it doesn’t try too hard. Forget about dessert pizzas and potato-based toppings – here pizza is done the right way.
Vegetarians have six delicious options to choose from, ranging from a classic Margarita made with plum tomatoes and fresh basil (a fool-proof choice), to a very complicated affair involving roasted butternut, sweet corn, zucchini, basil pesto, sour cream and rosemary. It is, however, the number 18, packed with bacon, salami, roasted peppers, onions, mushrooms, chilli, avocado and roasted garlic that has patrons coming back for more. More adventurous pizza lovers with a taste for the finer things can indulge in one with prosciutto, gorgonzola, pear and caramelised onion, or a bacon, fig, leek and feta option.
Prices range between a very reasonable R47 to R85 per pizza.
Because wine is not pizza and ‘86 Public is all about pizza, this is not the place to get wine. Those who want to enjoy a glass with pizza can choose between a 2011 Nederburg Baronne or a 2012 Nederburg Stein by the glass. Not much choice, but the Baronne is a winner with a warm pizza on a winter’s night. At R25 for a glass, it’s certainly worth it.
The staff are friendly and helpful and know the menu well. They are attentive enough to remember not to add artichokes to a pizza, but still a little too uncertain to attempt pronouncing the name of the wine, which means you have to actually see the two bottles before making your choice. It might get a little sticky once they add more wine options to the menu, so hopefully time will instil a little confidence in the waiting staff.
Small spaces generally make for very cosy eateries and ‘86 Public is no exception. The tables are close enough together to make gossiping about the guy sitting next to you impossible and the restaurant is well-lit at all times, so it might not be the best choice for a romantic first date or a good skinner. It is the perfect place for a cool night out with your best friends or to line your stomach before heading out to Kitchener’s on a Saturday night.
By Kristia van Heerden