I discovered envy early. Santa had some kind of over-worked, over-tired single parent mix up with the lists and on Christmas morning my brother received the new bike I’d requested, while I unwrapped the Crocodile Mile waterslide he’d asked for. I scrunched up my face, stamped on the spot and flung my arms like noodles before moping around the backyard, muttering about injustice. Eight year old me watched my brother ride circles around the Hills Hoist with a belly full of envy, before making do by gleefully hurling myself down the slippery plastic runway into the jaws of the croc.
When I was eleven I was envious of my beautiful friend’s pink denim shorts and platform jelly sandals, both from Miss Shop. I wanted them and I wanted to look as cool as she did. After Christmas, when Miss Shop was on sale, my mum took me, with my festive cash, to buy those same pink shorts and platform sandals. Abnormally tall already, the sandals made me feel ungainly; when worn with the pink denim shorts I looked like the bottom half of the BFG. Twenty years later I envy differently; I envy relationships, overseas adventures, the well paid and debt free, homeowners, friends getting married and having babies. Still, neat hair, a killer dress, stacks of Bakelite bangles, red lipstick that stays on the lips and off the teeth – these too turn me green. I visit Gigi, in Sydney’s Newtown, with a friend who’s carrying a full deck of enviable qualities. But beyond her bouncy curls, doll face and extraordinary talent she has a golden heart and an eagerness to eat. She’s distracted me from the worst loneliness with the best sour cream-filled brioche buns, kept my noisy mind quiet with round after round of yum cha and helped me replace all the salty tears with salty bowls of pho. We’re both craving red sauce and bulk cheese so order Tre Funghi e Stracchino, pizza with Stracchino cheese, three types of mushroom and garlic ($18.50) and Calzone Con Prosciutto e Funghi with ricotta, mozzarella, double smoked leg ham, mushrooms and spinach, topped with tomato and mozzarella ($20). Forgettable arancini from the specials menu come first; they’re dramatically under seasoned and we wolf them down to fill a hole. The pizza comes next and is brain emptying, dopey-smile pleasure; the thin crust chewy and charred, all hot and homely from the wood-fired oven. Spread with a gluey, glossy lake of molten cheese and dotted with sliced mushrooms, it’s salty and buttery and earthy at once. Our chatter swings from secrets to unicorns, to flowers then Christmas, dreams of cheese and escaping to Paris. Or NYC. Or anywhere, really. We agree to buy lottery tickets and share the spoils. The calzone arrives, a folded pizza pillow, all puffed up with heat and bursting with cheese, ham and pride. It deflates with cutting and doesn’t last long; the smokey ham, tart red sauce and salty, milky mix of cheeses is a bit ridiculous. We guffaw with smug satisfaction, grateful our first dining option fell through and that we now know where to find the best pizza. After paying the bill, we’re already planning our return as we weave through the tables toward the street. Though hers would be the first house I’d hit on a crime-spree and I’ll model my next wig on her ‘do, walking to the bus stop full and content I only envy hungry passersby and their chance to have dinner at Gigi.