Manifesto: A strong Manifesto
208 Rathmines Road, Dublin 6 Tel: 01-496 8096
A few weeks ago I was writing about pizzas, the real and the ersatz. I lost count of the number of emails I got telling me about Base (Base, 92 Terenure Road East, Dublin 6; 01-440 4800), a takeaway in Terenure that uses a wood-fired oven to make their pizzas.
Wood-fired ovens make by far and away the best pizzas, partly because wood smoke makes a good flavour enhancer and partly because wood gives a moist heat, which cooks the base better than the dry heat of gas or electricity. For that reason, if you're ever cooking a pizza in your home oven, a dish of water in the oven to provide moisture is a good idea.
I went to Terenure this week to try Base's pizzas. It's only a takeaway, so if you want your pizzas hot, try not to live too far from Terenure. The first thing you see when you walk in is the oven. It's an impressive thing -- big, shiny and built in America. A temperature gauge showed an impressive 550°F, powered, I was told, by Tipperary ash logs. That's a good choice: ash burns hot and burns evenly, so it makes a good wood for ovens.
The list of pizzas is eclectic, it contains some classics and some that might be there because of habit or popular demand, such as pizza with chicken, pineapple and sweetcorn, none of which would you find in Italy. My favourite pizza is a Capricciosa, which has a topping of mozzarella, tomato, mushrooms, artichokes, cooked ham, olives and olive oil.
In Lazio, my part of Italy, prosciutto is used instead of ham and the pizza is finished off with half a boiled egg. In Base there is no Capricciosa on the menu, but they did have Quattro Stagione listed. This last translates as the 'four seasons'. Its ingredients are identical to the Capricciosa, but traditionally the toppings are divided around the four quadrants of the pizza, effectively giving you four small different pizzas -- hence its name.
I got two pizzas, a vegetarian one called the Siciliana and the Quattro Stagione, although in this version the ingredients were mixed, so effectively I got my Capricciosa. Back home we found these pizzas to be very good indeed, the base well made and well cooked, the toppings just as they should be and made with good-quality ingredients. This is reflected in the price, where both pizzas were €16; quite expensive for takeaway, I thought.
Later in the week, after a visit to Lucy Doyle's exhibition in the Bad Art Gallery, I went to a restaurant in Rathmines called Manifesto, which has been recently taken over by two Italian friends, Lucio Paduano and Eugenio Mazzitelli. Their expressed intention is to run a real Italian restaurant, using authentic Italian recipes and ingredients.
Certainly, as I looked down the menu, it gave me the distinct impression of a real Italian restaurant -- the menu reads well, the décor gave the feel of a trattoria and the customers included some very well-known Italians living in Dublin.
I was there with Marian Kenny and she decided that all she wanted to eat was a pizza. Now, this is a good idea in Manifesto because the pizzaiolo -- the pizza chef -- was the winner of the gold medal at the world championships in 2006 with his pizza, Mamy. That didn't tempt Marian. Instead she chose the vegetarian pizza called La Stella or 'the star'.
I chose two courses, the Parmigiana of aubergines to start and then the Spaghetti alla Chitarra with lobster. The chitarra, or 'guitar', is a device made of thin wires stretched on a frame (hence the name) and sheets of pasta dough are placed on top of it. You run a rolling pin over it and the dough gets sliced by the chitarra into thin strips of spaghetti, but they're not round in section, they're square. When people used to make their own pasta, this was the easy way to get spaghetti.
The wine list is short, but it's well chosen. Even spending less than €25 you can try some pretty good wines, such as the Fiano, the Greco di Tufo and the Falanghina -- all whites from the Campania region and all with pedigrees going back to Roman times. The reds include a couple of wines from Antonio Gaja, perhaps the most esteemed producer of Piedmont, and a couple of wines from Pio Cesare, also a renowned producer from the same region.
We had a couple of glasses of the Vermentino, a crisp white from Sardinia, which were charged at €7 each. Mineral water came only in half-litre bottles and the three we drank were charged at €3 each.
The Parmigiana arrived along with some very good focaccia, a flatbread baked in the pizza oven, and we started our meal. The Parmigiana was well made and nicely flavoured, and this recipe included breadcrumbs -- a variant I've never encountered before.
Then the pizza and the lobster spaghetti arrived. Both were prettily presented, the pizza had the edges cut and folded to make it into a many-pointed star with the centre well filled with mozzarella, aubergines, courgettes and red peppers. It looked great on the plate, but the points of the star were without filling.
My lobster dish was sensational. It looked great, it was perfectly cooked and the flavours of the lobster and the tomato sauce were beautifully combined. Amazingly this dish was just €21, an exceptional price.
Talking of price, most of pizzas in Manifesto are around €13 and the most expensive is €15, which does rather highlight the cost of takeaway pizzas.
Not only do you get a table to sit at in Manifesto, you get a show. During our main courses the lights were dimmed, the music started and the pizza chef put on a remarkable display of pizza hurling and twirling -- a show that got a long round of applause.
An espresso for me finished this genuinely Italian meal. Nice to know that there's somewhere that I can take my Italian visitors to. The bill came to €69.