Monday, March 23, 2015

Pizzeria Libretto on Ossington: Real Neapolitan Pizza

We're fortunate to have a fabulous selection of authentic Neapolitan pizzerias in Toronto, and one that's received it's fair share of media buzz is Pizzeria Libretto, the brainchild of chef Rocco Agostino and his partner Max Rimaldi, who in 2009 sparked a Neapolitan pizza craze serving blistered, wood-fired thin-crust pies at their first location on Ossington Avenue.
The pizzeria's name comes from the traditional Neapolitan way of thinking about pizza: it should be thin enough to be folded in half into a little book, or a 'libretto', and it appears Pizza Libretto wrote the book on Neapolitan pizzas — as they're still considered by many to be the very best in the city. Agostino is so serious about Neapolitan-style pizza that there’s an 'Ideology' section on the Pizzeria Libretto website. 

Bright, bustling and loud on a Wednesday night on Ossington

Libretto is loyal to what real pizza is — invented in Naples using local natural ingredients, cooked in a wood fired oven at extremely high heat to achieve a charred, blistered crust. They use San Marzano tomatoes and Fiore di Latte Mozzarella, brought in fresh daily; the dough is made with naturally leavened Italian Caputo doppio zero flour and is baked in less than 90 seconds at 900°F in their wood burning oven, hand built by a 3rd generation pizza oven maker in Naples. Simple, Honest, and Natural. They serve many different styles of pizza, but it’s the passion that's behind the pizza, and the ingredients that are laid on top, that makes all the difference at Pizza Libretto, from Duck Confit with Bosc Pear and Mozzarella; Spicy Nduja Sausage with Tomato, Garlic, Oregano, Basil, Mozzarella and Stracciatella; Cremini Mushroom with Buffalo Mozzarella , Gorgonzola, Roasted Garlic, Rosemary, Thyme and Pecorino; to their signature Libretto Margherita with Buffalo Mozzarella, Crushed Tomato and Grana Padano. With line ups out the door most nights, the Ossington Libretto is still a booming success with devoted pizza-philes across the city. Grazie mille Rocco!

Pizza Libretto's busy kitchen with handsome 5000-pound oven hand built in Naples 

Pizza Libretto's pizza-centric menu

Libretto serves their own purified water to help reduce their carbon footprint

Warm, fresh and squishy house made focaccia with spiced olive oil

Sangiovese 2011 IGP from Falesco, Umbria available by the glass, quartino,half litre and bottle

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

Antipasto Misto of Prosciutto di Parma, grissini and marinated vegetables

Beet Caprese Salad with Ontario Fiore di Latte, Basil, White Balsamic and Olive Oil

Margherita D.O.P. Pizza with tomato, basil and mozzarella

Nduja Sausage Pizza with tomato, garlic, oregano, basil, mozzarella and stracciatella

Libretto Margherita Pizza with Buffalo Mozzarella, crushed tomato and Grana Padano cheese

A delicious pizza and glass of wine...what could be better?

An Affogato of hot espresso poured over vanilla gelato

Fresh Ricotta
Makes 1 1/2 cups
Recipe by Rocco Agostino, chef/partner at Pizzeria Libretto, Toronto

4 cups whole milk
1 cup 35 per cent cream
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Crusty bread
Extra-virgin olive oil

Stir the milk, cream and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching. This will take about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice. Let stand, without stirring, for 5 to 8 minutes until mixture separates. 

Line a colander with 5 layers of cheesecloth. Place the lined colander over a bowl so excess liquid can drain. Pour the mixture into lined colander and let stand for 1 hour. Transfer the ricotta to a serving dish or container. If making ahead, ricotta will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days. Serve with crusty bread and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Libretto Meatballs
Serves 4-6
Recipe by Rocco Agostino, chef/partner at Pizzeria Libretto, Toronto

1 1/2 kg ground beef, ground pork and ground pork belly
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped chives 
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano 
1/2 cup roasted and puréed red peppers
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano 
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp black pepper

Tomato Sauce:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 large onion, finely diced
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic 
1 litre canned San Marsano tomato, puréed
1/4 cup chopped basil 
1/4 cup Bomba, an Italian spicy condiment found at most grocery stores
1/2 tbsp salt
6 slices crostini from a baguette, about 1/2-inch thick each
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano

Combine all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Portion the meatballs with ice-cream scoop, then roll the meat into tight circular balls and place on large sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 375˚F oven for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and set aside.

For the tomato sauce, add 1/4 cup of olive oil to a pot large enough to hold the meatballs. Sauté the onions over medium heat until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for a minute. Add the tomato purée and simmer for 5 minutes. Then add the chopped basil, Bomba, salt and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add the meatballs and drippings left in the baking tray and simmer for another 15 minutes. While the meatballs simmer, lightly brush the crostini with olive oil and bake at 375˚F until the bread is golden. Remove from oven and set aside

To serve, place three meatballs in a bowl and pour sauce over each one. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of grated Parmigiano over the meatballs, and add a crostino to each plate.