11 May 2014

An Evening Of Pizzas and Acrobatics

'There is no better feeling in this world than a warm pizza box on your lap'

Pizza is comfort food. Pizza is happiness. I don't know anyone who doesn't like eating a pizza. It's the most versatile dish. The pizza base acts like a canvas allowing the chef to create whatever he wants on the top. I've eaten pizza with the most random toppings: crab meat, chocolate, marshmallows, caviar, nachos and even something called a dhokla pizza. Each one just as unique. Each one just as delicious. 

We were a lucky bunch of bloggers to be invited to share a special Media Table with world renowned ace acrobatic pizza chef Pasqualino Barbasso at Mezzo Mezzo, J.W.Marriott. Now we've all eaten a fare share of pizzas in our lives. Right from the ketcchup-grated cheese Udipi restaurant pizzas to the high end Italian style pizzas. But what I was about to experience was a whole different ball game. Not just pizzas but  acrobatic stunts with pizza dough. Kind of like acrobatic, flair bartending...but with pizza dough instead.

About Chef Pasqualino Barbasso: He is known for making high end Italian Pizzas, in the most skillful and entertaining way; with acrobatics. He is a master in acrobatic pizza making and has traveled the world with his skill. He has not one, but two awards to his credit at Sicily's Acrobatic Pizza Championship. His pizzas are a treat visually as well as for the taste buds. 

We spent the evening chatting with him about his journey so far, and the innovation that is acrobatic pizza making. We were lucky to get a ring side view of his wonderful act, and then taste the pizzas that are on the menu at Mezzo Mezzo till the 17th of May.

We started the evening with some delicious traditional breads, focaccino, cheese platter and cold cuts. The evening progressed over free flowing Peroni beer, wines and cocktails.

Peroni paired with traditional breads

Assorted cold cuts

Tomato Focaccino

Cheese Platter

The performance began, and we were all left truly spell bound. I apologise for the horrible pictures, chef moved just too fast for us to capture him in a single shot. He whipped, flung, tossed, juggled the pizza dough all over the place. He made it look so effortless and easy, which is not the reality. My favourite was him juggling three pizza doughs at one go. An experience of a lifetime, to see what he could do with the pizza base. 

Whirling the pizza dough

Chef at work

This reminds me of a Matador pose

Lucky me. Got a picture with him.
You can see a quick video of his performance below. I have way too many to upload here, but, this should suffice.

video

We were all looking forward to tasting Chef's signature creations which he specially created for J.W.Marriott. The pizza dough used for cooking and for the stunts are different, however. This is because different levels of elasticity and thickness are required.

The first pizzas to arrive looked nothing like conventional pizzas. But they tasted just like one. They were rolled up pizzas stuffed with cheese and topped with ham. The ham contrasted the cheese beautifully which bursts in your mouth. They also did a vegetarian version of this for us, skipping the ham. 

Special mention to the pizza dough on all the pizzas. The taste was not over bearing one bit. The toppings stood out completely, whereas the crust simply acts as a base for the toppings. Unlike many Indian pizzas where the crust is all you can taste.


Rolled Up Pizza with Ham

Rolled up Vegatarian Pizza
The Sapori di Bosco was next to arrive. It had tomato, mozzarella, porcini mushroom, pork sausage and pepperoni. This is definitely a popular pizza. The meat and the sauce complimented each other perfectly. The flavor of the smokey porcini mushrooms came out in each bite. Absolute crowd favorite this!

Sapori di Bosco
The Lilly was my favorite. Mozzarella, shrimp, artichoke and caviar on this pizza. A visual treat to begin with, followed by a treat for your palate. Each bite into this pizza was a surprise, artichokes in one, caviar in another, shrimp in the next. The caviar added some crunch and flavour to the blandness of the shrimp. 

Lilly
The Asparagi e Salmon is the Chef's favorite. It contains asparagus puree, asparagus, mozzarella, smoked salmon and herbs ricotta. The salmon was perfectly complimented with the flavor of the ricotta cheese. Must have if you're a salmon fan.

Asparagi e Salmon

Limited options for vegetarians on the menu. The Veggy had tomato, mozzarella, assorted grilled vegetables, and a balsamic reduction. The vegetarians themselves did not enjoy the pizza much. I was busy digging into the Lilly to even taste this.

Veggy
The special pizza that was created by chef for Indian audiences, was the Mezzo Mezzo. This was inspired by his favorite Indian dish, the Palak Paneer. It has cream of spinach, mozzarella, yellow zucchini, and grilled paneer. This usually comes wrapped in Italian ham, but we opted for the vegetarian, ham-free version. This was a brilliant concept, brilliantly executed. Palak with a creamy consistency, topped with soft paneer pieces, this pizza was delicious.

Mezzo Mezzo
 We ended the meal with some Tiramisu specially made for us by Chef Davide Cananzi of Mezzo Mezzo. Unanimously this was one of the best Tiramisus we had eaten. Special mention to the Sicilian Chilli oil chef made us try. We couldn't stop dipping our bread into it and polishing it off. 

If I could eat only one meal for the rest of my life, pizza it would be. And chef Pasqualino Barbasso's pizzas were stunning enough to be eaten in the after life. Do experience what we did that evening, an amazing acrobatic act and some delectable pizzas. 

Chef Pasqualino Barbasso with the food bloggers

Remember, Mezzo Mezzo at J.W. Marriott, Juhu. Only upto the 17th of May! 

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