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Queenstown, New Zealand: Rib-Sticking Pizza and Pasta at The Cow

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[Photographs: Lauren Sloss]

The Cow Pizza and Spaghetti House

Cow Lane, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand (map); 03 442 8588 thecowrestaurant.co.nz
Pizza Style: Medium-crusted, toppings-heavy pies
Pizza Oven: Electric, pies bake at 300º C (572º F)
The Skinny: With a focus on ample toppings, The Cow's sturdy-crusted pizza is a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs affair, perfect after a long day of hiking, skiing, and the likes. Don't skip out on the pasta or garlic bread, either!
Price: Bolognese Pizza, $19.90 NZD for a small; Chicken Liver Spaghetti, $21.90 NZD for a full order; Garlic Bread, $8.50 NZD

With only four days to spend in Queenstown during a recent trip to New Zealand, I had every intention of soaking up as much culinary diversity as possible. But one meal at The Cow soon turned into two, and two into three.

The Cow is a cozy pizza and spaghetti house, tucked down an alleyway of the same name. With heavy, dark wood paneling and a blazing fireplace, it's the kind of place that feels après-ski, or even après-hike, whether or not you're après-anything at all. It's an ideal den—even the middle of New Zealand's summer sees some crisp, chilly nights. The long tables are communal; locals and fellow travelers alike welcome conversation. Wine and beer flow freely, and the menu is almost entirely composed of pizza and pasta. What's not to like?

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We ordered our first pizza after eying other parties chowing down on topping-heavy, fresh-from-the-oven pies. Seeing as heartiness is the name of the game at The Cow, we opted for the Bolognese ($19.90 NZD for an 11-inch small, $28.90 NZD for a 14-inch large). None of us had any experience with meat sauce-topped pizzas, but we'd fallen hard and fast for The Cow's take on pasta bolognese (we were, of course, practically regulars at this point.)

The blend of rich meat sauce, melted mozzarella, and tangy-sweet tomato sauce proved to be a great one. The sauce, made of whole, crushed Italian tomatoes and "secret ingredients," is cooked for 8 hours. There's enough meat to add heft to the pie, subtly accentuated by the slow-cooked depth of the bolognese.

The crust, meant to be thin-to-medium in thickness and "crunchy, not floppy," is clearly designed to stand up to toppings. The menu proudly declares that the pizzas are "large and heavily garnished," noting that pizza bags are available for taking home leftovers. The twice-proofed dough bakes to a good, bready height; the browned crunch of the underbelly doesn't lend a huge amount of distinctive flavor, but it's well-salted, with a nice hole structure. Most importantly, the crust is light enough to balance the richness of that delicious sauce.

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Spaghetti options at The Cow are equally hearty and, fortunately for the waistline, available in half portions. The pasta isn't fresh, but it's reliably al dente—a perfectly serviceable vessel for the restaurant's sauces. From bolognese, to a cream-based mushroom and cheese sauce, to spicy chicken and chilis, it really does feel necessary to get a pasta in addition to your pizza.

On our last visit, we went big, getting the chicken liver spaghetti ($21.90 NZD for a whole portion, half pictured), described as being "for connoisseurs—not gluttons." It definitely isn't for those who shy away from the meaty, earthy funk of liver...they really pile it on. I love animal parts in excess, so this was a decadent, delightful bowl of goodness for me.

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While pizza and pasta and garlic bread ($8.50 NZD) in one meal may seem like overkill, ignore your responsible inner voice and go for it. The garlic bread is unmissable. A small, still-warm loaf of hearty housemade bread is doused with warm, melted butter, studded with ample amounts of diced garlic, and sprinkled with parsley. With a deep, whole grain flavor, the porous bread soaks up the butter and just begs for a dab of the additional butter conveniently served alongside.

Really, there's nothing to do but go big at The Cow. Stop worrying—you'll go for a hike tomorrow, or something. And, if you're like us, will likely hike all the way back to The Cow for dinner again.

About the author: Lauren Sloss is a bicoastal food-lover who is based in San Francisco. Some of her favorite things include The Black Keys, goat gouda, and guacamole. You can follow her on Twitter @laurensloss.

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