Of course the anchovies that Iâ€™m talking about are not the ones pictured above, which are fresh marinated anchovies from Spain. I just wanted to share this photo that I took at a Spanish food fest. These are really quite different from what I know to be anchovies, which are brown and flat and come in a can. Theyâ€™re magnificently salty and are the perfect burst of flavor in pizzas and pastas.
When Iâ€™m aching for anchovies, I go to A Venetto. This pizza place has been around for a while now. The specific branch that I go to in Glorietta attempts to evoke a New York-slash-Hollywood look. There are photos of New York scenes hanging on the walls, most of which are in black and white, while one wall has sketches of male Hollywood stars (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, et al.) sitting on a bench â€“ or is it a fence? â€“ clad in construction-worker attire. Quirky, but it works. There are tables with tiled surfaces or if you prefer, the booths situated right beside the large glass windows, which I avoid when Iâ€™m feeling anti-social. Sometimes I just donâ€™t feel like having passersby gawking at my food and thinking â€˜man, they eat a lot!â€™) And since my gym is just nearby, Iâ€™m deathly afraid that my trainer will catch me snarfing down on something he thinks I should have only on the weekends. (!)
So. Good friend and favorite eating buddy Kaie and I have some girl talk to catch up on, which is how we find ourselves at A Venetto. I suggest splitting a pizza and a pasta and since weâ€™re both fans of the anchovy, the decision of what pizza? which pasta? is made for us. â€œYou donâ€™t think thatâ€™s anchovy overload?â€ Kaie asks me with mock concern. â€œBring on the little fish!â€ I declare complete with hand movements.
The pasta is first to arrive. Itâ€™s the oil and garlic spaghetti with anchovies (P175). Iâ€™m delighted that the anchovy bits have been laid out atop the pasta, which Kaie and I carefully apportion. â€œYou got enough anchovies?â€ We ask each other in between slurps. The noodles arenâ€™t swimming in oil like most of its kind are wont to do. It may be because of the Parmesan cheese thatâ€™s more than generously mixed into this dish thatâ€™s good enough for three people. What I especially like are the chunks of roasted garlic strewn throughout and finding one or biting into one is an exciting counterpoint to the smoothness of the noodles, which are sometimes overcooked. This dish may prove to be a bit too much however for people who arenâ€™t as avidly into garlic as I am, and sometimes the garlic is undercooked.
What you see here is the Howieâ€™s Special (P260) pizza: garlic, cheese, and anchovies â€“ the medium, if I may add, which is 16-inches in diameter, or eight New York-sized slices. Iâ€™ve forgotten how majestic this pie is. (Now you understand why I didnâ€™t want to risk having my trainer see me. But we sat in a booth anyway. Yes, Kaie and I did receive stares from passersby. And no, my trainer didn’t catch me. Thank God!)
The pizza comes to the table practically steaming, and itâ€™s so large that table space needs to be made for it. Thereâ€™s nothing to do except clear stuff out and give in â€“ yahoo! Iâ€™m gleefully exclaiming over the bubbles gurgling under the cheesy surface. The pizza has been cooked in so obviously hot an oven that brown blisters have formed on the crust, threatening to explode their searing interiors. I poke one gingerly and it deflates under the pressure of my finger. Heh, heh. Naughty me.
Now, I have serious issues when it comes to pizza crust. Iâ€™m a thick-crust girl who believes with all her heart that the crust is really the heart of the pizza. The toppings are merely accessories â€“ frosting, if you will. I love my crusts. The famous thin-crust cheese and garlic pizza at Shakeyâ€™s is not a pizza â€“ itâ€™s a cracker. I prefer their house-style pan pizzas. Some will cringe, but for me, Pizza Hut pan pizza is the original thick crust pizza. You understand. The pizza at A Venetto however, strikes a nice balance between thick and thin for me. Its outer crust shatters upon impact, while the crust underneath the toppings is a contrast of two textures. Iâ€™m impressed: this pizza is the mediator between thick and thin, crunchy and chewy. And it doesnâ€™t scrimp on the cheese, either. As you can see from the photo, the mozzarella is set to fly out the window as Kaie cajoles the first slice from the mother pie. But as with all pizzas possessing copious amounts of cheese, it acquires a gummy texture the longer it sits. Best eaten while hot, yes?
â€œYou know, I think that the pizza has more anchovy than the pasta does. This is where Iâ€™m getting my anchovy fix,â€ Kaie says as she munches away. I can only nod as I eat heartily while wiping away the cheese oil dripping down my chin.
Glorietta 3, Ayala Center,
Makati (beside Zen and Tang City, near Tower Records)