Friday, February 19, 2016

Pizzeria Libretto on University: Classic Italian 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 2008 sparked a Neapolitan pizza craze serving blistered, wood-fired thin-crust pies at their first location on Ossington Avenue, followed by one on the Danforth and now a third sibling in the financial district on University Avenue above King which opened just over a year ago. Designed by Bukhara Design, this space is an intoxicating mix of Libretto’s classic charm with a more polished downtown aesthetic: sexy Ferrari-red light fixtures, Italian leather banquettes, patterned reclaimed wood wall panels, glistening white subway tiles, polished concrete floors, a long Carrera marble dining bar and lots of natural lighting from banks of soaring floor to ceiling windows. Also different at this location is the attention to cocktails and craft beers, but the heart of the operation is the open kitchen anchored by a pair of custom-designed Ferrara domed pizza ovens blazing away in the back. Like an old friend the menu is wonderfully familiar staying true to its Neapolitan roots with Agostina's classic VPN-approved signature pizzas, addictive assaggini and delectable dolce. “I'm really excited about being in the downtown core and bringing Neapolitan pizza to this neighbourhood,” says Agostina. “Pizza is one of those things that evokes really good memories, no matter how old you are, or what background you’re from, it just seems that at some point someone had a pizza that’s that comforting memory that really hits home.”

The modern interior of Pizzeria Libretto on University with soaring ceilings, 
expansive floor-to-ceiling windows and dramatic Ferrari-red light fixtures

Pizzeria Libretto's menu

Pizzeria Libretto's lovely fresh squishy bread with a little bowl of olive oil and balsamic

With a respectable Italian wine list, we selected a 2013 Falesco Sangiovese from Umbria,
grown in vineyards near Montecchio and Orvieto

Bright ruby in color, this Italian red quaffer offers intense fruit and floral aromas on the nose and pairs perfectly with tomato sauce based dishes such as Margherita Pizza!

Prosciutto di Parma served with seasoned grilled pizza dough grissini and marinated carrot and cauliflower salad

Warm Marinated Bella, Infornata and Kalamata olives

A classic Margherita Pizza with tomato, basil and mozzarella

La Pizza del Giorno - Zucchini and Mushroom Pizza with tomato, caramelized onion, roasted garlic, basil, Nduja, bomba sauce and shaved Grana Padano 

The very handsome Nuova Simonelli espresso maker that I had been eyeing all night, 
with dreams of a hot cappuccino at the end of the evening

A perfect Cappuccino 

Fresh Ricotta
Makes 1 1/2 cups
Recipe courtesy chef Rocco Agostino, Pizzeria Libretto

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 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 lined colander over a bowl so excess liquid can drain. Pour mixture into lined colander and let stand for 1 hour. Transfer 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 courtesy of Rocco Agostino, Pizzeria Libretto

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 oregano
1/2 cup red peppers, roasted and puréed
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 garlic, finely chopped
1 litre canned San Marsano tomato, puréed
1/4 cup chopped basil 
1/4 cup Bomba, a spicy condiment found at most Italian grocery stores
1/2 tbsp salt
6 slices crostini from a baguette,  3/8-inch thick
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup Parmigiana, coarsely grated

Combine all of the meatball ingredients together in a large bowl and mix well. Roll the meat into tight circular balls and place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375°F 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 meatballs. Sauté the onions over medium heat until translucent. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for a minute. Add the tomato purée and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chopped basil, Bomba, salt and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add the meatballs and any drippings left in 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, then remove from the oven and set aside. To serve, place three meatballs into each bowl and pour sauce overtop. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of grated Parmigiano over the meatballs, and add a crostino to each plate.