Elbert’s Pizzeria Is A Salcedo Favourite
Pizza is highly subjective.
Thin or thick crust? Pan deep dish versus hand-tossed? Some like it piping hot, straight out of the wood oven; some prefer it day-after-chewy from the fridge (some, ok? But the leftover pizza partisans are out there).
And there is the one opinion poll that truly divides: Authentic Italian or NY-style?
To give the Italian “boot” to the Big Apple is to concede that simple and basic quality produce and ingredients trump the mega slice. And while there is many a carb-tastic joint to sate all manner of pie cravings, a truly authentic—albeit accessible—slice of Italy in the heart of Manila is an utterly wonderful thought.
As per proprietor Elbert Cuenca, it’s wood-fired pizza that gets his motor running. “It wasn’t Italian cuisine in particular that I was after,” he shared. “It was just that I fell in love with wood-fired pizzas and that’s what I felt would put smiles on the faces of customers.”
The concept was ten years in the making, including the two that Elbert’s brother, chef-turned-pizzaiolo Adrian, took to train in Italy and the time it took to secure the location. Everyone remembers the previously loved Hooch bar on Leviste street? Well, Elbert’s Pizzeria won some major votes here, and, if I may so say myself, reinstated the love.
Having scored such a sweet spot is a fact not lost on Elbert. “I didn’t want to open the Pizzeria anywhere else,” he adamantly maintained. “I strongly feel that this area of Salcedo Village offers a more neighbourhood feel than any other. I’ve worked with the owners of V Corporate Center in the past for another restaurant concept. I have been impressed with the way the building is run and I am very comfortable with them. If not for this particular space becoming available, Elbert’s Pizzeria might still be a concept in waiting. I just feel it’s the perfect spot.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that just literally down the road, in the Sagittarius Building III, is his eponymous Steakroom, which, aside from serving up executives and the Salcedo set their dietary requirement of iron, doubles as a crop drying facility. “We actually use the rooftop to sundry the chilli for our chilli flakes,” shared Adrian with a wide grin.
Sitting below Adrian’s pride and joy—a super sleek Alfa Pro pizza oven—are stacks upon stacks of flavour-giving beechwood briquettes, all of which were sourced from Italy through good friend, Alex Lichaytoo, of Bacchus International, Inc. Everything, according to Adrian—from the special pizza flour, to the tomato pulp, to the cheese—was vetted and brought in by Alex.
“Its stainless steel,” explained Adrian, referring to the Pizzeria’s pièce de résistance. “The typical oven is brick or clay. The advantage of this one is that it is easy to get the heat up quick to the desired temperature [whereas] the usual ovens take about two and a half hours. This one only takes an hour. The disadvantage is that the heat goes back down much quicker so we have to keep on adding logs to keep the temperature up.”
Upon placing an order, it takes only three minutes to prepare a pizza; a minute and a half to flatten and assemble a pie with the toppings and only 90 seconds to cook. “If it’s over 90 seconds, it’s not going to be good,” said Adrian, adding “It’ll become too bready or makunat(stale).”
The basic pies sans cheese, such as the Marinara (tomato pulp and EVOO or extra virgin olive oil), start at Php 200.00 while the big-ticket, the dreamy Quattro Formaggi e Funghi (mozzarella fior di latte, gorgonzola, emmental, parmesan, and mixed mushrooms) will fetch a still very affordable Php 570.00.
Sure, going back to the basics works but why not switch up the house pizza à la Romana-style with anchovies or spice it up with the devilishly good Al Diavola (spicy pepperoni)? The Speciale takes the toppings game up a tasty notch with yellow cherry tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella.
For many, the gooier, the better, so the Pizza Bianca offerings are the only way to go. The Condor (mozzarella fior di latte, parmesan, sausage, broccoli rabe, EVOO, and basil) might sound like there’s a lot going on but a single bite becomes an instantaneous point of no return. The ultimate bite, however, is sinking your teeth into the Quattro Formaggi—a gooey medley of mozzarella fior di latte, gorgonzola, emmental, and parmesan.
We all know that bubbles and pizza go together like peanut butter and jelly, which is why the lads will appreciate an ice cold Menabrea Premium lager to wash down their slice while the ladies will enjoy a nice Prosecco or sparkling water.
While Adrian mentioned the possibility of expanding the menu down the road, his prudent brother was still on the fence about it all. “Honestly, we’re not even sure to add pasta dishes,” countered Elbert. It’s something we are considering but we are not committing to. Adding pasta and other dishes is dependent on how smooth the pizza operations go. Pizza making is what we are focusing on for now. We may add other dishes if we are confident it won’t affect what we do and if it would add to our customer experience.”
- Photographykryss rubio