Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pizzeria Libretto on Ossington: A Neapolitan Love Affair

Popular urban legend holds that the archetypal pizza, Pizza Margherita, was invented in 1889, when the Royal Palace of Capodimonte commissioned a Neapolitan pizzaiolo, Raffaele Esposito, to create a pizza in honour of the visiting Queen Margherita. Of the three different pizzas he created, the Queen strongly preferred a pie swathed in the colours of the Italian flag: red tomato, green basil, and white mozzarella, so the pizza was henceforth named the 'Margherita'. Who know if the story's true, but what's apparent from the enormous success of Pizzeria Libretto and Queen Margherita, Toronto's two heirs to pizza's culinary crown, is that the city's appetite for authentic Neapolitan pizza can't be quenched.

Libretto's 5000-pound wood burning oven which was hand made in Naples 
by a third generation pizza builder for making real Neapolitan Pizza

Pizzas are baked quickly in 90 seconds in this 900 degree wood burning oven

Libretto's Maestro of the Meatball, Dimarc, who says "They're made with love"

Libretto's long bar with funky exposed lighting

There are many different styles of pizza, but it’s the passion that's put behind the pizza, and the ingredients that are laid on top, that make the difference. Authentic Neapolitan pizzas are typically made with tomatoes and Mozzarella cheese, but ideally they should be San Marzano tomatoes which grow on the volcanic plains to the south of Mount Vesuvius, and mozzarella di bufala Campana, made with the milk from water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio. Genuine Neapolitan pizza dough should also consist of wheat flour - type 0 or 00, or a mixture of both - natural Neapolitan yeast, salt and water. When cooked, it should be crispy, tender and fragrant. And for my money, Pizzeria Libretto is as close to perfect as Neapolitan pizza can get.

Pizzeria Libretto's menu features over 12 pizzas

Fresh baked bread with a small bowl of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and thyme

A 2008 Aglianico del Vulture DOC, from Liscone, Basilicata

The menu features a selection of tempting assaggini, or appetizers, such as generous Spicy Meatballs topped with tomato sauce, garnished with Grana Padano and served with a crostino, which I saw being expertly rolled in the kitchen by Dimarc. I mentioned that we had ordered the Spicy Meatballs and enjoyed them immensely, he said "That's because they're made with love."
Rocco's Salad was a meal in itself, with a crispy egg, butternut squash, heirloom beets, pine nuts and Pingue Proscuitto. Somehow the inside of the crispy egg was perfectly cooked and still runny. The Beet Caprese Salad was part of Libretto's $15 Lunch Prix Fixe which comes with either a Margherita or Marinara Pizza, and choice of two dolce — a great deal. For an extra $5, you can choose any other pizza on the menu.

Delicious Spicy Meatballs in tomato sauce with Grana Padano and crostino

Rocco's Salad with a Crispy Egg, Butternut Squash, Heirloom Beets, 
Pine Nuts and Pingue Proscuitto

Rocco's Salad with its 'crispy egg' perfectly poached and runny

Beet Caprese Salad with Ontario Fiore di Latte, Basil, Cookstown Seedlings and Olive Oil

Arugula Salad with Pear, Walnut and Piave in an Ontario Gamay Vinaigrette

Beef Carpaccio & Arugula garnished with Lemon, Herb Oil and Shaved Piave Cheese

White Anchovy Pizza with Tomato, Roasted Garlic, Red Chillies and Buffalo Mozzarella

Cremini Mushroom Pizza with Buffalo Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Roasted Garlic, 
Rosemary, Thyme and Pecorino

The classic Margherita Pizza D.O.P. with Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella

Vanilla Affogato - vanilla gelato drowned in espresso

Like any transplanted dish, the further the distance, the greater the risk of loss of authenticity, which is one of the reasons why so many pople love Pizzeria Libretto. Owners Chef Agostino and Max Rimaldi are committed to creating a truly genuine Neapolitan pizza, as approved by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, the governing body that preserves this time-honoured Italian culinary tradition. Another great thing about Italian food is that it's not pretentious in any way. It's simple, accessible, and hearty. It's about bringing people together, and Libretto strikes each of those chords — the food is delicious, portions are generous, and the atmosphere warm and friendly. Viva la dolce vita!

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