Enrico slices up delicious pizzas
FILIPINO Enrico Torres has no Italian heritage but he seemed destined to become a pizza cook.
Pizza Hut gave him his first taste of pizza-making as a young man in the Philippines in 1993.
Later, after a two-year stint in a bakery in his home country, Enrico went to sea and has been up to his elbows in pizza dough ever since.
He has made mouth-watering pizzas for the past nine years with Princess Cruises and one with P&O before that in a career that has taken him all over the world.
Ask virtually any of the 2000-plus passengers on each cruise aboard the Brisbane-based Sun Princess ship and they will attest to his skills at Verdi's Pizzeria.
In full view of diners, he and second pizza cook Norman Tuazon toil away behind glass at the preparation benches, kneading and flipping their dough bases before adding the secret recipe sauce and toppings.
Like any good local pizza place, the food is light, tasty and made fresh to order.
The friendly atmosphere and attentive service make guests want to linger longer, despite the line forming at the entrance for others to be seated.
With its chequered marble tables, olive-green padded garden party seating and Italian Renaissance-style artworks, Verdi's is a pizzeria for all seasons.
The little piece of Italy on deck eight is a popular eating alternative to the Marquis and Regency formal dining rooms and Horizon Court buffet for lunch and dinner.
Taste the Californian (sun dried tomatoes, avocado slices, mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce), calzone (rolled pizza dough filled with mushrooms, sauteed red onions, ham, oregano, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese) or perhaps an ortolana foccacia (zucchini, mushrooms, sauteed red onions, grilled bell peppers and basil) and you'll understand why.
And all the dishes are included in the cruise fare, allowing diners to eat as many pizzas and foccacias as often as they like for free.
Enrico and Norman feed their creations on long pole platters into the pizza oven, to be delivered between seven and 15 minutes later, depending on numbers.
As Verdi's can seat up to 120 at a time, Enrico and Norman are used to preparing and cooking between 300 and 450 pizzas daily.
Their record is 530 in one day.
Hawaiian or cheese are hot favourites with children, while adults salivate over pepperoni or supreme (grande pizza quattro stagioni: family-size with a combination of four types of toppings of your choice), usually with anchovies.
Enrico, however, prefers to keep it simple.
On the rare occasions he will make his own pizza for dinner, he likes the sweet and spicy taste of just garlic and chilli pepper on the secret recipe sauce.
He said Aussies were meat lovers and liked barbecue sauce on pizzas.
"Bacon, ham and pressed egg on top and barbecue sauce. It's like a breakfast pizza," Enrico said.
"That is very strange to me."
ENRICO'S TOP TIPS
- Don't put too many toppings on each pizza. Flavour is all about balance. The thin crust made at Verdi's is placed on a flat pan that goes from oven to table and is not laden with toppings that would make the pizza difficult to cook perfectly all the way through.
- Let pizza dough rest for at least two hours before using, "otherwise you'll have a lot of bubbles in the crust and it will look like a dalmatian". "The colour (when cooked) should be really brown, balanced and equally distributed if rested correctly. For me, the best dough has rested for two to three days."