Say Pizza and you have my attenzione. If you grew up watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you knew the names of the four pizza-loving characters named after Renaissance artists even before you could spell. When we travelled to Rome, the tastiest Margherita slices I have had were from tiny cafes that could barely seat 10 people. For a couple of euros, the taste of freshly made sauce on a crisp base with bubbling Mozzarella stretching into miles of cheese with every bite is a memory I relish. When I was invited by Pantry Cafe for a pizza baking demonstration by their in-house Neapolitan chef, I couldn't help but think Cowabunga.
Having driven by the Pantry Cafe on several occasions since its inauguration, I imagined what was behind the floor to ceiling windows with scribbles all over them. Walking into the cafe late afternoon, it was refreshing to see the space basking with sunshine beaming through these windows. The ambience made me comfortable immediately and I sat on the nearest couch. The sheer number of gourmet products and merchandise on display for sale had me wondering where to begin browsing. That thought was laid to rest when I was signalled to that the demonstration was about to begin.
The young and vibrant owner of Pantry Cafe, Yana Kalwani enthusiastically shared her vision of using the highest quality ingredients and providing the sourcing the freshest ingredients for her gourmet cafe. She introduced us to Chef Dominico and restaurant manager Manuella who both hail from Naples. Interestingly, pizza is never cut into slices in Naples and Chef Dominico refused to serve it otherwise. It was when the pizzas kept making their way back to the kitchen almost all the time that he reluctantly agreed to do so.
Chef Dominico begins by preparing the dough on a pristine Carrera counter using Italian 00 flour, fresh yeast and brown sugar which incidentally gives a warm colour to the base when it is baked. His recipe requires the pizza base to be rested for an eye-brow raising 12 hours. When asked whether this resting time can be reduced, he insisted against it. With the pizza dough out of the way, he started preparing the sauce. San Marzano Tomato sauce is exclusively used and is flown in from Italy. Since the pizzas were going to be baked in a brick oven he explains it doesn't need to cooked on the stovetop as the heat from the oven would suffice. Capturing him throughout the process was a tad difficult considering how fast he worked. In an almost a blink of an eye, the dough was rolled, topped with sauce and sprinkled with grated Parmesan and grated fresh Mozarella. He arrives with his pizza peel to transport it back to the kitchen.
I quickly followed him to watch the pizza bake. In 4 minutes, it was pulled out of the oven, Mozarella puffed into bubbles and crisped golden. He tops the pizza with fresh basil and Manuella serves our plates with a slice each. When we were offered to taste the San Marzano sauce, a few bloggers found it to be a tad salty. The final result was modest and I did find the base to be a bit chewy. Then again, it's a basic Margherita and I wanted to try all that they had to offer before making a judgement.
Halfway through my first slice of pizza, the chef began preparing the Genovese Pizza. Genovese is a pesto suace that is made using blanched basil leaves shocked in ice cool water to retain a bright hue and reduce bitterness. It is then crushed with pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan and olive oil. This sauce was prepared before hand and before I could get any more photographs, the second pizza was on its way to the oven.
The mention of Pesto sauce had me feeling squeamish. On our first night out in Rome, we dined at a restaurant overlooking Bernini's Fountain of Four Rivers in Piazza Navona. I ordered Spaghetti in Pesto sauce and didn't quite like it. I was distracted by the sights and sounds of the Piazza that I finished my dinner without thinking. It gave me the worst migraine induced nausea that had me running the opposite direction whenever I hear the word Pesto. I decided to give it a pass. While talking to the other bloggers, I didn't realise that Manuella had served me a slice. I was absorbed in the conversation and didn't realise that I had ate a mouthful of it till I started chewing. I was aghast and memories of that horrible night came flooding back. While reaching out to my napkin, I realised my palate approved of the flavours. This pizza tasted fresh and the sour cherry tomatoes complimented it quite well. I still wouldn't have anything pesto anywhere else but if your'e a fan of Pesto, I'm sure you will enjoy this pizza.
Manuella asks the crowd if we will be able to handle the heat of the next pizza. The signature Kings Pizza was red peppers, black olives, Parmesan and Mozarella and Wagyu Chorizo. The mention of the last ingredient had my ears pricked. My notion of burgers completely changed after having Wagyu meat almost two years ago. It's the juiciest and tastiest beef I've had. Yana explains that all their meat is never frozen and always fresh. A local butcher house caters tailor-made meat as per their requirements. The pizza arrived and I couldn't wait to try. Apart form Pepperoni, I don't like floating bits of meat on my pizza. Then again this isn't the gray, rubbery and season-less meats I've had in the past. The pizza was marvellous, the moist and smoky chorizo being the star ingredient. It left a lingering aftertaste of heat which my spice buds relished. Here was a pizza I was willing to have seconds of. I could see Chef Dominico halfway garnishing the next pizza which meant that there was more to taste. It was hard to resist and I watched the pizza plate being cleared from the table completely empty. Considering this was a first for the afternoon, I knew I'd be coming later with my husband for this one.
The next pizza to arrive to the table was the Farielli Pizza. This pizza is a native to Naples and you rarely find it outside this city. The Farielli is a type of spinach and it resembles rocket leaves. As I love spinach, I wanted to read more about it but failed to find anything appropriate online. Manuella explains that they were lucky to find a supplier in Italy from where it is flown in. This Pizza was Bianca style, meaning sans tomato sauce with fresh Mozzarella, Garlic, Oregano, sea salt and extra virgin Olive Oil. I was expecting the leaves to taste bitter but they didn't. At this point I was starting to feel a bit more than full but before I could put my cutlery down, lo and behold, the final pizza arrives on the table.
The Tartufo Pizza. Oh Tartufo, I am in love! Chef Dominico clearly saved the best for the last. And what a fantastic way to draw the curtains on this afternoon. Mozarella, Parmesan (by now you would have learnt no pizza is allowed to enter the oven without these), Brie, roasted garlic, Arugula and glorious Truffle. This pizza is bursting with flavours and one worth stopping reading this post right away and heading out to try it yourselves. Hands down, the best pizza of the afternoon. The creamy brie takes up the flavours of the garlic divinely and it had me in a trance. A flavourful memory has permanently etched in my foodie brain bit now. A blogger going for her second slice claims that she will regret it but it is worth tucking into. It's that pizza that you shouldn't order along with anything else. If you are a pizza lover, visiting Pantry Cafe and not trying this pizza would be sacrilege.
If you'd like to try your hand at making pizza, here Chef Dominico shares a few.
Pizza Dough Recipe
- 1 kg Caputo Tipo 00 flour
- 1⁄2 Liter of water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh yeast
- Pour water into a mixing bowl. Add oil, salt, sugar and yeast and mix well.
- Slowly keep adding the flour until all the water has been absorbed and continue to mix all the ingredients for the dough by hand and kneed well for about 10 minutes.
- When done, divide the dough into smaller balls, cover with a wet muslin cloth and let it rest for 12 hours.
Pizza Sauce Recipe
- 500 grams San Marzano tomato sauce
- 1 1⁄2 tablespoon salt
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 50 gr. fresh basil
- Mix all the ingredients for the sauce together and blend using a hand mixer.
- If you are using a brick oven, you should not cook the sauce.
- If you are using a conventional oven, you can cook the sauce for about 3 minutes.
Basic Pizza Margherita
- 3 tablespoons tomato sauce
- 5 grams Parmiggiano Reggiano
- 40 gr. fresh mozzarella
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 5-6 whole basil leaves for garnish
- Preheat oven to 240° C.
- Knock back the dough balls by punching it to remove air and roll each dough out on a floured surface until you have very thin, 25cm-diameter pizza bases.
- Spread the tomato sauce over pizza bases leaving a 2cm border. Divide the mozzarella between bases, then scatter with Parmiggiano Reggiano.
- Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 8-10 minutes until the cheese has melted and the pizza bases are crisp and lightly golden around the edges.
- Drizzle the pizzas with a little more olive oil, garnish with small basil leaves then serve immediately.
I had a great afternoon and I'm hoping to swing by Pantry Cafe this weekend with my husband. They have a bakery stocking fresh assorted breads, muffins, croissants, tarts and huge serving of cake. The Pantry Cafe is going through a menu renovation and will introduce new dishes very soon. The Ripe Pop-Up Market will be at the Pantry Cafe every Tuesday.
Location: Al Wasl Square Al Hadeeqa Street, Jumeirah 3
Contact: Tel: +971 (4) 388 3868
Read more on Pantry Cafe on their website
For more details visit their Facebook page through this link
Find them on Twitter here
To view more pictures from the event, head over here
Ciao for now
Have a good food day!