Authentic Italian ingredients combined with a sprinkling of north-east charm, can only result in something bellissimo.
Second chef Shaun Clubb is yet to visit Italy, but that doesn’t mean his sights are not firmly trained on creating fabulous dishes at Mac’s Pizzeria, where you can sample the finest Neapolitan cuisine which The Granite City has to offer.
The popular restaurant can be found on Union Street in Aberdeen, and has proved a hit with customers since opening just over two years ago.
A quick glance of the menu and it’s not difficult to see why.
There’s not a frozen pizza in sight, indeed to use frozen ingredients would be considered sacrilege to the passionate team, who make the dough by hand before leaving it to proof for more than 24 hours.
It may be a lengthily process, but the bespoke Napoli pizza oven is where the magic happens.
With intense temperatures getting up to 500C, it takes a mere one minute and 30 seconds for each pizza to be cooked.
But if you thought Mac’s was just a one trick pony, trot on.
The antipasti board features garlic marinated olives and mozzarella sweet chili peppers, while the mouth watering tiramisu is also made inhouse.
And if you weren’t convinced by the menu, the interior is an Instagram dream.
With a classic Italian scooter suspended from the ceiling and rustic wood panelling, it’s not a far cry from enjoying pizza in a quaint Italian square.
Good food and good company is what it’s all about.
We caught up with Shaun who has been cooking up a storm at Mac’s since it opened, and found out why he’ll never get bored of pizza.
How did you start your career as a second chef?
It all happened by accident, as I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do when I left school. I was only 20 years old when I started out as a kitchen porter, so I washed up all the dirty dishes and cooking equipment.
It wasn’t a job I minded, and my very first job was at The Rox Hotel on Market Street in Aberdeen.
I’m 33 now, I got into kitchens and never left. I gradually worked my way up.
It was Jeremy Harris at The Palm Court Hotel who gave me a chance at cooking. Ryan Davidson at No 10 was also a big inspiration to me in the kitchen.
I had been looking for another job when this role came up, I’ve been here since we opened just over two years ago.
You’ve worked in kitchens all over Aberdeen, what’s different about Mac’s Pizzeria?
It’s honestly unlike any kitchen I’ve ever worked in before. It’s very relaxed which makes it easier in a lot of ways. We’re like one big family here, so I really missed it during lockdown. I love the busyness and the excitement.
What makes a delicious pizza?
Now you’re asking. In my opinion, it all comes down to the dough. I’d never worked in a pizza house before, so I had to learn how to make it. We use Caputo ‘00’ Neapolitan flour, yeast, salt and water.
The secret is to not over mix it or you’ll knock all the air out of it. I was trained by the head chef. It’s 10 minutes of mixing, 20 minutes left in the basin and then it’s put in a box all night and left to proof.
Fresh dough always tastes better.
We also use olive oil, it gives a wetter texture so the pizza won’t dry out during cooking.
Do you have a favourite on the menu?
Can I have more than one? I love making the salame, which is spicy venticiana
salami, salame piccante, red onions and of course olive oil.
The Veronese is also pretty good. It consists of White sauce, fior di latte mozzarella, mushrooms, prosciutto ham, mascarpone, and truffle oil topped with rocket & grana padano shavings. Delicious.
I don’t get much time at home, so I usually take pizza with me. I eat it every day and I never get tired of it, that’s how good Mac’s is.
What are the challenges which come with working in a pizzeria kitchen?
Well you’re always learning on the job, which is brilliant.
People thinking pizza is simple. But cooking great pizza, that’s a challenge in itself.
Too hot and your pizza will burn, and you can’t send out a pizza which is too salty.
You have to be watching it all the time. But when a customer says it’s the best pizza they’ve ever had in their life, well that feels like a massive achievement.
It does tend to be the younger diners who come in, but we get people of all ages. So when an elderly couple finds the pizza that good that they order another one, that’s a great feeling. They’re shocked that they actually like it.
I’ve had people ask me if I’m Italian, and I have to say well actually I’m Scottish.
From the very first day we opened, customers felt at home here. I think that’s important, to be able to relax when you go out for a meal.
Why do you think Mac’s has been so successful?
I think there was a gap in the market for sure. There are some chain restaurants where their pizza is cooked from frozen. People wanted something which tasted fresh and authentic. We combine local ingredients with ingredients which come from Italy, so the taste is something else.
What would you recommend ordering off the menu?
Oh, the Antipasti board to start. It comes with Italian cured meats and you can’t forget the dip.
Then I’d say our signature pizza, which is Tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala, ‘blaggis’ red onions & white Scottish cheddar. Blaggis is a combination of black pudding and haggis, which we get from Aberdeen.
To finish, warm chocolate fudge cake served with vanilla gelato. Basic maybe, but it gets overlooked.
Our tiramisu is incredible as well. I love making sweets, but that could be for the chance of taste testing as I’ve got a sweet tooth.
And finally, does pineapple belong on a pizza?
Absolutely not, that’s the devil food to me.
Plenty of people seem to like it mind, and there’s a lot to be said for simple dishes.
Sometimes people come in and they just want a plain cheese and tomato pizza, there’s nothing wrong with that.
You can contact Mac’s Pizzeria on 01224-643-272 or visit their website at https://www.macspizzeria.co.uk/