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A Slice of Italy: Motorino

1 month ago

A Slice of Italy: Motorino

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MOST PIZZA PLACES IN MANILA RACE TO BE THE BIGGEST, THE CHEESIEST, THE MOST TOPPINGS-LOADED AND CRAZY-CRUSTED. Motorino is playing a different game altogether.

Motorino’s head chef Mathieu Palombino told Gothamist (an online media outlet), “Some people try to reinvent [pizza], but there is nothing to reinvent.” A good pizza Napoletana is defined by simplicity and balance. Dough that’s crisp yet chewy. San Marzano tomatoes grown on the volcanic slopes near Mount Vesuvius. The best extra virgin olive oil you can afford. Motorino checks off every item on the list.

Metro Manila gets the distinction of being one of only two Motorino locations in Asia. Palombino himself trained the kitchen staff and keeps tabs on the pies by asking for food photos every night. “He even checks how we pack take-out orders,” notes manager Joy Ann de Vera.

Marga Lorenzana, who brought Motorino to the Philippines with her husband Eugene, says their children could eat Motorino’s pizza for days. They’re picky, which is a good sign. “The Philippines is used to American-style pizza,” says Lorenzana. “It’s different from what you actually get in Italy. We try to give our diners that [authentic] experience… we love pizza.”

Their Margherita pizza arrives, the aroma of fresh basil drawing us in. The chunks of mozzarella form a pattern on the surface. Slices are large so we can fold a slice in half like they do in Sicily. The olive oil drips, the mozzarella stretches, the saltiness of pecorino cheese adds depth. A lightly charred crust lends a smoky flavor to each bite. It’s perfect.

The secret—which isn’t really a secret because they’re more than happy to gush about their product—is that primary ingredients are sourced from Italy. This includes the flour, San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil from Andria, parma ham, and fior di latte mozzarella. Local ingredients are bought fresh at the market thrice a week.

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Because the ingredients are fresh, Motorino keeps the recipes classic. Try the Prosciutto di Parma, which has entire sprigs of arugula dancing on top, and the Quattro Formaggi with fior di latte mozzarella, pecorino, gorgonzola, and provolone. Another unique pizza flavor would be the Soppressata Piccante, with spicy Italian salami.

The pizzas are baked in a hulking Stefano Ferrara brick oven that sits in the middle of the restaurant. It weighs two-and-a-half tons and was made with hand-pressed bricks and clay from Italy’s Sorrento region. A Ferrara is a wood-burning oven made in the Neapolitan tradition that retains heat at a perfect temperature of 485˚C.

Apart from pizzas, they also serve Palombino’s famous Motorino Meatballs and Roasted Chicken Wings, which has the clean flavors of lemon, mint, and chili. Their Tiramisu is one of the best in the city and goes well with a cup of cappuccino. There are also off-the-menu dishes that Palombino developed exclusively for the Manila branch—just ask the friendly staff.

It’s a lot of effort for a pizza place, which is why Motorino’s prices are more expensive than pizza chains in the Philippines. “We don’t scrimp on our ingredients,” explains Lorenzana. “We just want to introduce more people to a kind of pizza that’s fresh and authentic. Hopefully people appreciate it.”

Can you taste the difference? We’d have to grunt our answer in between mouthfuls: Yes.

 

Words by Cristina Tantengco

Photographed by John Ocampo

 

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