I am a fan of pizza and pasta. In fact, my whole family loves eating those specific Italian foods and I am often asked to buy pizza or cook pasta for lunch or dinner any time of the week. Plus, my kids and I even create homemade pizza whenever we happen to have ingredients in the ref.
When I got an invite to Aria Cucina Italiana's pizza-making event, I readily said yes. I thought it would be great to discover a new dining place that serves great food. I was so glad I came because I really had a great time. For one, I got to put all the toppings I want on top of my pizza!
According to Chef Marino of the Aria Manila branch, making a good pizza is all about care. "You have to care when you choose the ingredients, care as you make the dough, and care when you create each pizza." That was evident in the way Chef Marino demoed how to make the perfect pizza.
From the moment the flour and yeast are mixed to make a pizza, to when it is kneaded, rolled out, and lovingly massaged before being layered with delicious toppings then placed in the oven, it should be with a purpose. That purpose is to be the best pizza it can be whether it has two or ten toppings. At Aria, pizza is baked in a wood fire brick oven that took two months to create. Click here to watch Aria's "The Making of a Perfect Pizza" video.
The restaurant has a section of the kitchen called a laboratorio. Aside from the pizza section, a cold section, a pasta section, and a main course section, the laboratorio is where the work, and the magic begins. There, production for the mise-en-place, or the setup of ingredients, is done on a daily basis to ensure the freshness of all the ingredients.
And fresh ingredients were what we got to put on our pizza! After spreading some tomato sauce on my dough, I placed bits and pieces of seafood (shrimp, squid, and smoked salmon) and mozzarella cheese on one side then divided the other half into two more sections where I placed ham, mushrooms, and Gorgonzola cheese on one then pepperoni, grilled zucchini, and brie cheese on the opposite side. I added the basil leaves after my pizza came out of the oven.
The result? One of the most mouth-watering and heavenly delicious pizza that I've ever tasted! (Love your own, of course! LOL) Seriously though, my pizza tasted really good especially the side with the mushrooms and the Gorgonzola cheese on it. Many of us excitedly (and proudly) shared slices of our creations with our seatmates. Everything was delicious!
Families who love to dine on Italian food would love Aria Cucina Italiana not only for the good food but also for its cozy ambiance. It's located in Bonifacio High Street Central and only opened early this year. For those who are wondering if this is related to the Aria found in Boracay, it is! The Manila branch just takes the same loved menu of "pizza by the beach" to a more urbane setting with additions created by Chef Marino like the Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli, the Three-Cheese Gnocchi, and a variety of Risottos (Di Mare, Saffron, Porcini and Mascarpone). Aria also serves new desserts such as chocolate mousse and the Zuppa Inglese.
Customers can order any one, or more, of the 24 different kinds of pizza that the Aria team has come up with in the laboratorio. The people who work in this special kitchen are a group of talented individuals who are dedicated to give customers the best authentic Italian cuisine. Chefs are rotated on the various sections so they get to be familiar with the Aria system and become experts in all fields and in making each and every dish on the menu. At Aria, you won't get a "bad pizza day" just because one pizza chef didn't make it to work that day.
"We try to select the best ingredients, especially for the salads. We get the freshest, organic leafy vegetables, herbs, and eggs when available," said Chef Marino who hails from the Ligurian region of Chiavari in Italy, the place where pesto was born and which also happens to be his favorite Italian dish. He makes it the traditional way using a mortar and pestle. "Did you know there are 3,000 kinds of Italian cheeses?" he asked citing Strachhino as the most popular.
Chef Marino affirmed that they try to keep all the dishes at Aria as authentically Italian as possible. Thus, the fettuccine, ravioli, and pansoti are handmade from scratch, giving visitors a chance to try real, handmade pasta. Try ordering some to see the difference.
With 14 years of experience in the food industry, there are more things Chef Marino would love to share about his home cuisine with Filipinos. Aria is one of the best venues to begin with :)
* Aria Cucina Italiana is located at the Upper Ground Floor of East Superblock, Bonifacio High Street Central, 30th St. corner 7th Ave., Bonifacio Global City Taguig. Please like their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter.
* To see more photos of the pizza-making event, please visit this blog's Facebook page.