The lingering aromas of glowing wood embers in a pizza oven brought back memories of my first pizza experience.
Susan Wong gets nostalgic as she tucks into Chef Matteo’s freshly made, delicious, thin-crust pizzas at Mediterraneo.
Making your own pizza is one of the ultimate cooking experiences. Why? You’ve made the dough from scratch – kneading, stretching, tearing, reworking and repairing – your hands have been in it. You’ve made the sauce with patience, shredded the mozzarella balls without shaving off your fingertips and stood guard resolutely in front of the oven. It’s misshapen and a little burnt on the edges, but it doesn’t matter, because when you finally dig in, you can smell and taste the passion that went into it.
When I was in kindergarten, my father joined me on one of my first school trips. The mission? Learn how to make pizzas at the neighbourhood Pizza Pizza – a popular Canadian franchise. At 4-years-old, I was almost a year younger than most of my classmates, and a lot smaller in size – I could barely see over the cold stainless steel counter. The other kids worked at the countertops with ease. I looked on in frustration as my classmates sped throughthe kneading of the dough, tossing the balls of flour into the air (some landing on the floor) and pressing them out flat to make two 5-inch pizzas – one for their parent and the other for themselves.
I remember looking up at my father feeling absolutely defeated. “You can do this. Think outside of the box,” he whispered in my ear. That’s when I noticed two red milk crates sitting underneath the workstation. I flipped them over, stacked them on each other, and my father found a vacant large wooden cutting board and placed it on top of my new temporary workstation. He kneaded the dough as I dusted the cutting board with flour and sped through all the toppings. As I watched intently through the glass oven door – the sight of shreds of mozzarella melting and bubbling into the sauce, and the smell of caramelized pepperoni filling the kitchen – I thought to myself that this was an unforgettable experience.
“Welcome!” Annie of Mediterraneo Gigiri warmly greeted me. The lingering aromas of glowing wood embers in a pizza oven brought back memories of my first pizza experience.
As I sat in candlelight in the garden of this charming converted villa, waiting for my companion to arrive, I watched as other guests received their food. There were Chef Matteo’s specials and the expected Italian dishes: antipasti, pasta and risotto. But what received the most attention were the pizzas including the special meter-long ones – wood-fired and thin crusted.
Ordering pizza was the obvious choice. But first, we started with Mozzarelline Fritte which were crispy, golden brown, bread-crumbed balls of homemade mozzarella. The melting centers of the bite-sized balls stretched into pliable, delicious and fun strands; which were perfectly complemented by a classic spicy Napoletana Sauce. There was the Vegetariana Pizza topped with tomatoes, homemade stretched into pliable, delicious and fun strands; which were perfectly complemented by a classic spicy Napoletana Sauce.
There was the Vegetariana Pizza topped with tomatoes, homemade mozzarella, asparagus, zucchini, aubergines, roast bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and onions. Dusted with a fresh crack of black pepper tableside, the topping-laden pizza was packed with flavour thanks to the well-balanced fresh toppings and a crispy thin crust. The simple Parma Ham pizza arrived completely covered by the thinly sliced cured meat – the saltiness of the topping softened by the tangy homemade tomato sauce. A Biscuit Basket with Vanilla and Raspberry Bavarian Mousse paired with Vanilla Ice Cream and fresh berries cleansed the palate perfectly after such a savoury experience.
What sets Mediterraneo Gigiri’s pizza apart from the others is the experience. When you get to taste something that conjures up reclusive childhood memories and stirs up passion, that’s a sign of a great meal in my books.