Walking into Pizza Metro Pizza, felt like crossing a threshold of time. One step inside, and I was instantly transported to Italy. To my left was a vibrant mural of a busy, colourful Naples market, reminiscent of an Italy I only saw in films. The other walls were dotted with frames of Italy’s most popular comedian Toto, known for his unsmiling but sympathetic bourgeois figure. Toto might have been stingy with his smiles, but here there wasn’t a dearth of any. It was delightful to watch the smiling chef juggle his pizza while the very young hosts regaled me with their warmth.
The restaurant may have the rustic appeal of an Italian Trattoria, with its copper pots and pans hanging from the ceiling, and an open pizza kitchen with a wood-fired oven. However, the food on the menu is anything but simple. The menu does not just serve its signature, mammoth, metre long pizzas, but also has an array of pasta, antipasti and a few meat and fish mains.
My first order was quick to arrive. It was a clean and light Frittura Di Calamari-small halos of fresh squids, deep fried, accompanied by a simple house mayonnaise. The meat was firm and white with a mild, slightly sweet, crunchy and almost nutty flavour. Definitely worth trying if you enjoy an unmasked taste of organic seafood.
The next dish up was the Polpette Al Sugo, basically beef meatballs in tomato sauce, with a sprinkle of parmesan and basil. Although meatballs are usually had with spaghetti, in Italy, they are considered a second course. For me, they might as well have been the main, given the richness of the juicy meat and their tennis ball sizes. However, make sure you slather it with a lot of tomato sauce to enhance the taste as you could find it a tad bland.
My taste buds tingling (thanks to the basil leaves), I dug into my next treat, the Parmigiana di Melanzane-or the oven- baked aubergine with parmesan, mozzarella, basil, and tomato sauce. Surprisingly light on the stomach, this hearty meatless bake, complete with its lingering freshness, could surely convert even the most devout eggplant haters into eaters.
After all my trysts with the Eggplant Parmigiana in Little Italy, New York, I can safely say that my hunt for the real thing in Mumbai has definitely ended here. Moving on, I decided to taste something that this pizza joint is infamous for-the metre long pizzas. However, my appetite already exhausted, I instead opted for a specially prepared round pizza.
It arrived within 10 minutes looking like a multi-coloured collage. My favourite, Ciros pizza had a nicely cured, crispy pancetta with aubergine, mozzarella, fresh basil and goat cheese. The crust was just right. The pristine white cheese with its rich creamy texture, and mildly salty taste, added an extra oomph to this deliciously light pizza. The Portobello pizza had sliced Portobello mushrooms and some delicately subtle Grana Padano cheese, under a blanket of aromatic peppery wild rocket leaves, coupled with a gentle drizzle of earthy truffle oil.
The Diavola with mozzarella, mushrooms, salami, tomatoes, fresh basil stood out, for its unusual addition of chilli oil, which I must add, was quite fiery even for my highly seasoned Indian palate. The last one was the Ciccio Bomba pizza, replete with meatballs, sausages, ham, basil and black olives- a meaty affair. Next was a pasta dish, the chef’s favourite, The Scialatelli Pesciosa-Treasures of the sea, married to house-made Scialatielli pasta. Would only recommend it if you are not allergic to crustaceans or cephalopods, and you don’t mind an overly lingering fishiness on your palate. I personally felt the dish could use some more of the garlic and possibly a slash in the price too.
Having bitten more than I could chew, my sweet ending would have to wait until the next time. Until then, my experience at Pizza Metro Pizza will always be a wonderful combination of nostalgia and the ‘real’ taste of Italian cuisine where food is culture and hospitality reflects in not just the warm welcome at the door, but also in the passion of the obsessive team of chefs who relentlessly strive to pleasure your taste buds. They sure did mine. I left with the lingering aftertaste of Christopher Morley’s wisdom, “No man is lonely while eating spaghetti. It requires so much attention.”
Pizza Metro Pizza
Dr. Ambedkar Road
Next to Barbecue Nation
Call: 022 6599 3333
PS: The author was the guest of Pizza Metro Pizza
Insia Dariwala is a graduate from F.I.T New York (Advertising and Mass communications), loves to tell stories and is a filmmaker. ‘The Candy Man’ (www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSr0ne-iizs) her hard hitting debut film on child abuse won her two ‘Best Director’ awards in India (2009, 2010) and also got nominated at Barcelona International Film Festival and the New York Short film Festival in 2010.