This pizza place has had a cult following ever since it first opened in 2010 in Katipunan. Earlier this year, long time fans of their made-from-scratch Neapolitan style pizzas were ecstactic that the restaurant finally opened its second branch. Their 40-seater space in Salcedo Village spared the South-based diners from the heavy traffic heading to Quezon City for a slice of their pizza. Currently the smallest outlet, the Makati branch gets jampacked during weekday lunches and dinners, as it is just a hop and a skip away from many office spaces and residential buildings. The wait for a table during these peak hours may stretch long, but the wait has always been worth the fresh slices of pizza, forkfuls of pasta, and soft blobs of their creamy burrata.
We set the special trip to the (then) soon-to-open branch of Gino's Brick Oven Pizza to Wednesday of last week, then it had to be pushed to a day after (construction work), then moved to a couple more days (milk supply, this time). The anticipation built up, but the wait turns out to be worth the time, as they wanted everything to be in place, in time for their public opening. Last Saturday, a couple of hours before they flipped their "Now Open" sign, owner Jutes Templo welcomed us into the third and newest branch at Podium Mall in Ortigas. Seating capacity is larger, in fact, the largest among the three branches. It's a 90 seater, compared to Makati's 40 and Katipunan's 30 to 60 (Gino's Katipunan customers may spillover to the Cello's Donut's space right beside it, as these two establishments are run by a husband and wife tandem). And another great thing about being a bigger space? You can now reserve tables in this new branch!
Aglio Olio (P170) and Salted Egg (P190) Pasta
We had two bowls of fresh pasta and satisfied our cravings for their signature Neapolitan style pizzas, with that darling of a crust midway of thick and thin, and between crisp and chewy. It puffs on the edges, an imperfect oval of bubbly warm bread; a bite into a slice topped with fresh and clean ingredients will instantly make you feel right at home. Don't forget to drizzle the ever-so-popular and addicting Gino's Spicy Honey! It goes well with the pizza, bread sticks, and even the cheeses.
Last Saturday's sneak peek placed the restaurant's new line of cheeses on the spotlight. 'It took us one to two months to finalize the product,' says Jutes about their new lineup of cheese. Gino's Brick Oven Pizza makes their own, using fresh carabao's milk sourced from the Philippine Carabao Center, so look forward to always-fresh cheese platters in the restaurant. They may run out of stock a bit more easily during this season, though. Jutes explains that the 'Ber' months tend to have a drought in the milk supply, so whenever it is available, do order the cheese.
It was a cheesy treat for our tastebuds as different kinds of cheeses were lined up on the table, ready for our tasting. My, my, perhaps this is the feeling a woman gets when she is torn between two lovers--even more so, as five kinds of cheese stood there in their glory, waiting for you to decide on who your favorite is. It was such a difficult decision to play favorites, but cheese number two found on the list below is my personal pick.
Gino's Brick Oven Pizza will roll out their new line of cheeses within this week, and I highly recommend for you to try all five. They have their similarities in flavor profile, as all are mild and soft rather than hard and sharp. But the different textures and hints of smokiness and saltiness here and there makes it a great education for your palate, especially if you consider yourself a 'turophile' (a.k.a. cheese connoisseur). With flavorful elements available like Pesto (P75), Cherry Tomatoes (P80), Salami Milano (P120), Prosciutto (P120), and Bolognese Sauce (P140) you can order with the cheese, it's fun to do a lot of mixing and matching with these fabulous five. Top your pizzas and pastas with these cheeses, even -- you can make your own cheese-loaded creation if your hunger dictates you to do so, as the restaurant offers these five cheeses as extras for your pizza and pasta of choice.
Here are the five kinds of cheese that will soon be available at Gino's. All cheese are served with bread and arugula.
1. Burrata (P295, P245 as extra for pizza/pasta)
Their burrata, an Italian cheese that combines mozzarella and fresh cream, has actually been available since late last year, but Jutes mentions they have improved on its flavor and presentation. The pouch is now tied with a topknot, looking more like a burrata, now that there are other similar looking cheeses on the menu. It's still a blob of succulent, milky, and decadently soft house-made burrata. Slicing this baby open is always a treat, revealing its creamy insides ready for devouring.
2. Straciatella (P265, P215 as extra for pizza/pasta)
Straciatella gets its name from the Italian word 'straccia' which means 'shred,' and that is what it is -- a soft, stretchy, shred-like consistency of curd cheese. I found the stringy, clingy pieces to have such a unique mouth-feel that I gravitated towards it more that the other cheese variants that day. Pair it with the cherry tomatoes, so you can have burst of tarty and juicy whenever your teeth sinks into the fruit, in between bites of the cheese.
3. Buffalo Mozzarella (P215, P165 as extra for pizza/pasta)
Gino's take on this Italian classic is a treat, and this ball of creamy and smooth cheese of can simply be enjoyed with the arugula and bread that comes with every order. It has a tiny hint of tang, and I found paring pieces of it with the bread drizzled with spicy honey to be a delicious experience in textures and flavors.
4. Smoked Mozzarella (P225, P175 as extra for pizza/pasta)
This is their buffalo mozzarella, but served smoked, adding a depth to the flavor. It looks almost exactly the same, but under longer scrutiny, the color is ever so slightly different, and one will notice grid marks on the smooth surface of the smoked mozzarella.
5. Ricotta (P185, P135 as extra for pizza/pasta )
Like the straciatella, this fresh and soft cheese comes drizzled with olive oil. Compared to the other cheeses being offered in Gino's, this one is has a more 'spreadable' texture, perfect for slathering onto pieces of bread. Texture wise, Ricotta is quite similar to cottage cheese, and is used in both savory and dessert dishes, such as the Italian ravioli and cannoli.
Gino's Brick Oven Pizza is now open beside Shi Lin, at the 3rd level of The Podium Mall, Ortigas. The new cheese platter and cheese line will roll out within this week. Like Gino's Brick Oven Pizza (/Ginosbrickovenpizza), follow on Twitter (@ginos_pizza), and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries.