Thursday, 15 October 2015

Honouring The Humble Pizza


The Belly Team has been quite quiet on this blog.  Ok, let’s be specific.  Half of the Belly Team has been quite quiet on this blog simply because I have been traveling for the past month.   However, worry not.  The other half of the Belly Team had been making his presence felt throughout some of the best restaurants in Singapore.  Jerome has devoured the most variety of cuisines the island has on offer with his voracious appetite, but the best for him, at least in my opinion, has probably got to be the humble pizza. To this, I had to agree in spite of my constant battle with healthy eating. 


When I was traveling across 4 countries last month, hopping from Hong Kong to Jakarta to Phuket and finally Kuala Lumpur, the amount of rich and spicy food I had turned my belly inside out with discomfort.  I finally settled for a vegetarian pizza at The Pizza Company in Phuket for fear of facing another spicy Som Tam.  Believe me, that pizza was the best dish I had throughout that month of traveling.


Tino’s Pizza CafĂ©


Jerome got his pizza fix recently at Tino’s.  A relative newbie to the already extensive quantity of pizza restaurants, Tino’s challenge was to serve up the best pizza that used the freshest, top quality ingredients.

He picked 2 types of pizzas, the Margherita and the Sicily Seafood.  The Margherita came loaded with mozzarella, padano, basil and cherry tomatoes while the Sicily Seafood came topped with tuna, calamari, shrimps, capsicum, basil leaves and padano.


Unfortunately, whatever Tino’s had promised to deliver, it really was not up to the mark.  The food was very average, uninspiring and the topping ingredients seemed cheap.  The portion of the food was also measly and not what one would expect from a restaurant that was established to focus on the hearty fare of good quality pizzas. We would question the sustainability of the restaurant against the competition of the “bigger boys” which offered better quality fare.




Pizzeria Mozza


So we moved from a pizzeria that offered such poor quality fare to one that has consistently served up some of the best quality pizzas in Singapore – Pizzeria Mozza.  This goes back to the principles which Jerome and I shared.  To enjoy better quality food, one should not hesitate to pay a little more for it.  

At Pizzeria Mozza, one cannot go wrong with the pizzas served here that are inspired by celebrity chef Mario Batali. The restaurant was in fact the brainchild of Mario Batali, restaurateur Joe Basitianich and mentor and cookbook writer Nancy Silverton.  This local chapter was their first international foray, with their main restaurant headquartered at the prestigious Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Each pizza is baked to order in a custom-built wood-fired oven and topped with generous amounts of  the freshest premium ingredients specially procured from some of the best purveyors of quality produce in Italy.


I had eaten at Pizzeria Mozza several times particularly after a show at the MasterCard Theatre across from the restaurant. In fact, embarrassingly, because the pizzas were so good, I had even eaten at Pizzeria Mozza twice on the same day, once before a show and then again, after the show.  


Recently, Jerome visited the Pizzeria and ordered 2 pizzas.  One came topped with fontina, mozzarella, sottoccenere and sage.  The second was prepared with burrata, slow roasted tomatoes and Sicilian oregano.  Be careful about being too over-enthusiastic with the addictive crispbread served while waiting for the pizzas to be cooked.  It was extremely delicious and threatened to cause frivolous ordering of multiple servings of crispbread which might leave little room left for the even more delicious pizzas.






This pizzeria traced its roots to Brooklyn.  It specialized in Neapolitan-styled pizzas that came topped with ingredients procured from various regions in Italy, resulting in the rich and robust flavours across their pizza creations.  


The way the proprietor of Motorino described the tomatoes used in the sauce base was enough to send us into a state of delirium.  He mentioned that the tomatoes were cultivated in Sicily “where the sun shines the hottest and the volcanic soil on which the crops were grown ensured that the harvest yielded exceptionally good quality produce”.  The tomatoes used were heirloom tomatoes which were open-pollinated and non-hybrid which resulted in much better, quality-tasting tomatoes compared to the large scale commercially grown variety.   If you find me hiding in the corner of a kitchen munching on fresh tomatoes, that would be why.


Jerome opted for the all-time favourites Marinara and Margherita pizzas because these classics would be a good test of the tomatoes and other ingredients used which the proprietor spoke to us about.  The Marinara pizza was made from tomato sauce, oregano, garlic, sea salt, organic extra virgin olive oil.  The Margherita pizza was made from tomato sauce, fior di latte, basil, pecorino and organic extra virgin olive oil.  True to promised, they passed the test.  The pizzas were so simple, yet transported us back to the old fashioned Italian kitchens in our minds where we could see a little, or not so little old lady pounding away at the pizza dough….”the way Mama makes” as they would say in popular food programs featuring renown Italian chefs.




Pizzeria L’Operetta


Another one of Jerome’s favourites was the Margherita Con Fungi at Pizzeria L’Operetta.  This full 12-inches of splendour came topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, basil leaves, and parmesan which was baked in a wood-fired oven.  This was simply delicious and they were obviously uncompromising in quality and freshness when it came to ingredients.  The oven which the pizzas were cooked in, bore an uncanny resemblance to Phalaris’ ancient torture device, the Brazen Bull.  Kept at a very high heat, it produced an absolutely delectable pie which was soft and with the right amount of chewiness.  The pizzas here were Vera Pizza Nepoletana which was a certification awarded by the Associazione Verace Pizza Nepoletana, a not-for-profit organization where members were bound to comply to the exacting standards of the traditional pizzas made in Naples.  This pizzeria belonged to the L’Opera group of restaurants headed by executive chef Seita Nakahara who had accumulated a wealth of culinary expertise with stints in Piedmonte, Sicily and Tuscany.




About The Writer:

This blog post was co-written by my brother Jerome and I. Although we are siblings who grew up 11 years apart, shaped by differing experiences to see the world from different perspectives, we do share a common obsession – FOOD.  We celebrate our passion for life with food.  However, our attitudes to food are quite different and the way we celebrate our love for food are also quite different.  Jerome lives to eat and hoovers everything edible that crosses his path.  As he shovels food into his mouth with that fork in his right hand, he takes photographs of what he eats, and posts pictures and notes up on Facebook with his left.  Often, his beautifully written prose about what he had eaten would be 7 paragraphs in length and would not have any punctuations in between because he had been too busy multi-tasking. 

I, on the other hand, eat to live. It is not just about my attempts to eat healthily. As I am a “cam-whore” and “social media hussy”, I spend about half an hour styling my food, taking photographs, writing notes and posting them across my social media platforms before eating them, right after the hubby has paid for the bill and is about to head out of the restaurant.  I enjoy reading all my posts about what I had eaten because I know that I had lived fully in spite of watching what I eat.  Welcome to the foodie world of the quirky Ong siblings.