Dudu Camargo, the man behind the luxurious pizzeria Stravaganze is something of a name in Brasília where seven restaurants from contemporary diners to burger bars take his name. Fortunately for cariocas, the only other city Camargo has decided to set up shop in is Rio, more specifically where Ipanema joins the Lagoa and where the locals try and keep the lid on their rather chic pizza restaurant that is just far enough off the beaten track to be missed by all but the sharpest passing eyes.
A converted mansion opened in 2005, only the basic structure remains, the modern glass and wood construction with huge windows that practically pull you in off the street. Four very different dining areas are on offer inside and out; the downstairs front terrace (on a quiet enough stretch of Rua Maria Quitéria not to get much traffic noise), the downstairs main room, and the huge, airy upstairs with the long 'party' table and another outdoor terrace, this time with a one-way view towards the Lagoa for those alert enough to grab the correct chair.
The Pão da Casa (R$26) is a positively essential starting point, fluffy folds of bread with pepperoni, ham, onion, provolone, parmesan and basil stuffed into every nook and cranny and something of a signature starter for Camargo. Follow it up with a creamy Burrata caprese (R$51) and you are one step away from the holy trinity, the buffalo mozzarella with tomato, rocket and basil is liquid heaven hiding behind the thin skin holding the white parcel together, best pierced into with a sharp corner of the crispy pizza branca.
The aforementioned trinity is completed, of course, by the pizza, a thin-yet-dense base that gets smothered with a host of exotic and classic toppings, mercifully distributed with more economy than many of the city's pizzerias. Which means the Fervore (R$59) isn't overloaded with pepperoni but the flavour is just as strong thanks to its long marinating in chilli and fennel, and the pizza to which Camargo lends his name (R$63.10) has a generous but not cloying amount of goats cheese, which is cut through with hunks of fig, slices of Parma ham and dabs of honey.
The sweetness of the Pepe Diva (R$62.30) is another triumph of balance, with the brie offset by great big dollops of chilli jam. The same cannot be said of the desserts which are out and out sweet-tooth teasers, like the Romeu e Juliet 'Lasagne' of sticky goiaba and queijo minas cheese (R$24.40) and the Pizza Nocciolato (R$40.30) with chocolate and cream. For something slightly more subtle to round off proceedings, sharing the Frittelline di Tartufo di Cioccolato (R$19.80) is about the perfect change of taste; six mini chocolate buns filled with a rich chocolate truffle and served with vanilla ice cream and nuts.