Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King
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Right Now, The ONLY Pizza I Want

posted by in Italian, Restaurants

There is only one “real” pizza, pizza from Naples, its birthplace. A doctrine, if you will, set forth by the Assocciazione Verace Pizza Napoletana is very clear that pizzas be made with a specific type of flour, tomatoes, and cheese, that it’s hand-formed, and adheres to certain measurements of diameter and thickness. In addition, pizzas must be baked in a wood-fired oven at 900°F for exactly 1 to 1.5 minutes.

Having said that, I think everybody has their own opinion of what a “real” pizza is. Me, I’m mad for thick crust and a minimum of toppings; I’m quite derisive of my Bin’s penchant for thin crust afloat with its conspicuous assemblage of toppings. “Hmph, that’s a cracker, not a pizza,” I sniff. “And what you eat, love, is bread, not pizza,” he shoots back.

But we both agree on Gino’s Pizza, which we embrace enthusiastically. I, for one, fantasize about burying my face in its pillowy depths.

The best way to eat a pizza from Gino’s is to fold it, like so.

Resident pizza man, Jutes Templo, knows what he does best and sticks to it. The abbreviated menu lists only nine varieties of which we try two. The Bianca Verde (P335) is spectacular, truly. Teeth sink into a toothsome dough, the piquant fragrance of garlic flutters forth, followed by its sharp then subtle bite. Soft clouds of kesong puti (made in-house), ricotta, and parmesan run rings around the tongue with zips of bitter greens – arugula and basil. The menu describes each 12-inch pizza as “divided into 6 slices, good for 1-3 persons.” This is entirely correct, and it’s also entirely true that one pizza may not even be enough for one person.

Don’t even think of eating this pizza without dribbling onto it some of the most potent chili oil I’ve ever encountered. Too good. So hot! The chili flakes are equally fiery, too.

Somehow our order for a Four Cheese pizza turns into a Margherita (P295), but so enchanted are we that we fall head over heels into it. They say that this particular variety is the benchmark of a good pizzeria, and Gino’s version is notable. It’s a star in its simplicity — just tomato sauce providing a base and required acidic contrast to the creamy kesong puti and parmesan; basil leaves uplift the pie with color and its characteristic flavor.

The pizzas, as the restaurant name denotes, are baked in a brick oven. Enclosures such as this reach temperatures of up to 650°F and are designed for top-heat intensity. This results in crusts that are crackly-crispy and blissfully blistered. The pizza’s large rim – Italians call it the cornice – looks very thick; I imagine that it’s made from an active dough that puffs up dramatically in the oven’s inferno. But bite after bite yields a pizza dough that’s airy and chewy with sufficient bite to satiate and satisfy.

As supernal as the pizzas are, it’s stunting to have just one type of dish. So we order a trio of pasta. It’s astounding that the restaurant is able to make its own fresh pasta in its tiny kitchen, and a different shape for each variety too. The Salted Egg Bacon (P280), their version of carbonara sports skeins of fettuccine. The Tomato Basil (P250) lies in long, languid sheets that drape over its sauce, red and glittering. The Sea Urchin (P385) is a slick and slippery tangle of noodles slightly larger than spaghetti.

I only have this to say about the pastas at Gino’s: were it not for the exceptionally made fresh pasta, they would flop. The sauces are quite weak, watery, almost, and almost always under seasoned. The sea urchin pasta specifically, is well on its way to expiry; thank goodness for squirts of lemon to revivify it. Still, fresh pasta is a rarity in Manila, and having made it myself, I understand why most restaurants fall back on the supermarket dried kind. Props to Gino’s for not doing so.

Though Jutes admirably works to his strengths, I wish there could more on the menu in terms of protein. In the kingdom of carbohydrates, I am the queen but this surfeit of starch leaves a part of me starved. A mere Cold Cuts & Cheese Platter (P350) is far from offering succor and I’m not keen to the idea of a Mixed Green Salad (P150). When I tell Jutes this, he tells me that it used to just be all pizzas and that the pastas are a somewhat recent addition.

I can’t complain about Gino’s desserts, however. They’re cheeky and require a sense of humor.

I must start with the Cookie Milk (P120), essentially a glass of milk to which a mix of packaged cookie halves and wholes sit submerged. When Jutes recommends this dessert to me, he’s got his hand over his heart swearing to its sanctity and how this, for him, is true comfort food. I understand completely. The milk is cold and slightly sweet and when drank with bits and blobs of cookie, it tastes like a lumpy (in a good way) Oreo shake. I drink the whole thing in one long swallow and instantly feel comforted. Comfort food indeed and quite the spin on “milk and cookies.” I wonder if this would taste even better with freshly made chocolate chip cookies?

I’ve tasted many strips of bacon lavished in the arms of chocolate and Gino’s Chocolate Covered Bacon (P180) is alright. I like how it retains its crunch; I wish that more palatable bacon could be used however. It’s not salty enough, believe it or not, and there’s an off taste somewhere. Still, what a clever concept.

I must make special mention of the Crack Pie (P270). An exceedingly popular dessert from the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, it’s similar to a pecan pie sans the nuts. I’ve also made this pie and it’s excruciatingly addictive; it’s also the latest dessert-plaything of Manila’s home bakers. Gino’s version of it has the grit from the requisite cornmeal, lots of yolks, butter, and cream sitting on an oaty crust. I taste the powdered milk and salt, a power pairing responsible for this pie’s power to propel one to keep on eating… and eating… and, well, you get the idea. Remarkably, the pie tastes somewhat like pastillas, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Thank goodness this pie, a mini tart, actually – is large. I eat two slices and miss it dreadfully because I’ve already had it boxed to go. When I get home, I fall at its mercy and consume the rest in a fevered, drugged-out state. Heck of a pie.

~~
Gino’s Brick Oven Pizza
2/F 341 Katipunan Ave., Loyola Heights QC (Above Mercury Drug)
Mon – Sun: 11am-9pm
(02) 381 3963

33 Responses to “Right Now, The ONLY Pizza I Want”

  • after gino’s, i hop next door to cello’s and get myself an Oreo doughnut :)

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  • This has got me drooling!!! I’ve been meaning to try this pizza place out before, but it closes too early. Will try to get off from work early to try their good pizza. Heehee!

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  • I last went to Gino’s with Anonymous Paul and we practically inhaled all the Pizzas that we ordered. My favorite was the Margherita. We had a guest with us from abroad who absolutely enjoyed the Crack Pie. He had four slices.

    I wish that they would open somewhere closer to Makati as going to Katipunan can be a pain with the traffic.

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    Lori Reply:

    Sanju & Katrina -
    I’d love for Gino’s to be more accessible but I think it being so far is one reason why I covet it.

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  • I’ve been wanting to eat at Gino’s for ages and ages! I just wish it weren’t so far away. :-( Recently, though, I bought a Groupon for Gino’s; I figured, if it’s already paid for, we’ll be forced to finally make the drive. Can’t wait! :-D

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  • the pasta and pizza looks delish!! and that cookie milk seems like an ultimate comfort food <3

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  • this is my favorite pizza place :D they have the perfect pizza crust!

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    Roni Reply:

    I agree Smarla! ;-) ahhh the crust. yum.

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  • Better try this place when I visit Manila again. But do I really have to fly then drive all the way there?

    Seriously, it’s easier to find good pizza in Manila than LA =( Lucky you guys. Must be the water really. LA, eh, only a couple. Pizzeria Mozza, and 800 Degrees which is like Chipotle, only for pizza.

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  • Neapolitan is totally over rated. I have been to Italy several times and know lots of people who have traveled there. They all agree that the pizza is too beady and lacks taste.

    The person who invented the “Assocciazione Verace Pizza Napoletana” was a brilliant con artist he actually made people pay for a recipe that includes flour, salt, yeast and water with San Marzano tomatoes with toppings and a wood burning oven. Wow people will do anything to feel important. What a joke. The pizza in France is much better then in Italy.

    Pizza was actually invented in Greece not Italy.

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    tony Reply:

    Good points. I agree Neapolitan is totally over rated.

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  • I’m not much of a pizza person, but most of the pizzas that I’ve come to love are those cooked in brick ovens. Will definitely hunt for this place. :)

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  • Sikat ka na talaga, Jutes!

    Congrats. bro : )

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    jutes Reply:

    Hahaha! See you sir! Thanks for all the support!

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  • I always have trouble posting on your blog these days, Lori. :-( My comment the other day didn’t show up. Anyway…

    I’ve been wanting to eat at Gino’s for AGES!!! Pizza is a major food group for me, so the first time I saw a picture of their pizza, I knew I had to try it! I just wish it weren’t so far away. But recently, I bought a Groupon for Gino’s, so it will force me to make the drive. Can’t wait! :-D

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  • Jutes! Super sikat ka talaga as Sir Spanky said! Haha! Congrats!

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  • How are the middle parts of their pizzas now? When they were new, the middle part was soggy and very hard to eat when taken out but the rest was delicious. Also, I saw their owner posting on reviews looking for constructive feedback so they definitely seem interested in improving their end product, which is always a plus.

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    Lori Reply:

    Hi Mike,
    If it’s been more than 3 months since you’ve last been to Gino’s, come and try their pizzas again. But if you like thin crust-crispy pies, then Gino’s is not for you.

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  • It seems too hot this week to even think about eating a pizza. But your description of the pizza and pasta makes it a must-try. Now. :)

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    Aina L. Reply:

    I was thinking the same thing. I wonder if they deliver.

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    Wence Wenceslao Reply:

    After reading this blog post, I wanted to visit Katipunan but to no avail, I just called up 212-1212 (Quick Delivery). I ordered mostly the stuff Lori mentioned. Too bad they don’t serve that bacon dessert for delivery.

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    Wence Wenceslao Reply:

    Had it delivered, don’t even bother. The crust is cold. I think Gino’s pizza is better off when you dine in.

    But I absolutely loved the crack pie. You can have that delivered and it’s still good.

  • I called them immediately. They deliver! Just call Quick Delivery daw.

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  • Hah! Just successfully ordered the featured pizzas and their crack pie. I’m excited! Thank you for sharing this, Lori.

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  • I just tasted Gino’s Margherita and Bianca Verde Pizzas as well as his Crack Pie. Verdict: Crack Pie is delicious! Alone or paired with whipped or fresh cream – it’s very good.

    The pizzas’ texture is pillowy and chewy with that nice yeasty taste. The flavors and herbs are balanced, but then you might have to season it (especially the margherita) a bit according to your taste.

    This was a win, Lori. Thanks for helping me find another source of good food in QC.

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  • oh mama mia! i would give this place a visit real soon! :)

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  • Been hearing a lot of good things about this place. Now I know why. Their pizzas looks quite special compared to the commercialized ones I’ve tried.

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  • Had lunch here last Saturday after eating your post, I loved it! We ordered the Margherita and the Sausage (Hub is a fan)and the tomato basil pasta for our eldest daughter. I know what you mean about the pasta sauces though. The total pizza experience would have been more perfect if they served chardonnay (or beer) in the restaurant ;) Thank you for this post Lori!

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    Lori Reply:

    Pinky-
    Glad you liked it!

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  • I think I’m due for a return to Gino’s. My first time was marred by an air conditioning malfunction.

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  • I love Gino’s pizza! Suddenly craving for Bianca Verde, thanks to this post! I usually finish around 2/3 of any pizza I order there. :))

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  • everything looks yummy! but i have to admit, i am intrigued with the cookie milk!

    Kwala

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  • hi ms. lorie! HOW TIMELY!!! right now I’m at the library of Miriam College — i just need to finish final requirements for my MA summer sem. This post makes me want to fly across Katipunan! It’s been quite a while since i had Gino’s pizza! And the cookie milk is calling meeeeeeee!!!

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