The pizza at Mani in Pasta, pizzeria in Milan: three locations in total, the latest in Via Giovanni da Procida 1
A good product, a cosy place in a pleasant neighbourhood, with a warm and familiar service, where the protagonists are on the plate, and the guests enjoying this. Mani in pasta: this is how we could summarise the above. Yet the full flavour of this reality that brings a fine product to the Milanese can be found in the history of this pizzeria - which recently opened its third location in Via Procida 1, Milan - in the details of the decor, in the energy and obsessive attention of Andrea Villani, owner and partner of the pizza group with Redì Shijaku, and in the genuine goodness of the dough.
At the entrance to Mani in Pasta in Via Procida 1, the symbol of the pizza group
So it’s worth taking a step back, from the origins to the current flavour of Mani in Pasta: it’s 2014 and we’re not in Via Procida, but in the diametrically opposite Via Padova, at a time when Milan, apart from rare exceptions, has not yet matured a true pizza culture, and indigestible dough and sleepless nights prevail. Andrea Villani knows something about this and rejects the idea of not being able to eat pizza without paying the price in terms of digestion: that is why he starts working on it himself. The first take-away pizzeria is born, with prices at least 2 or 3 times higher than in the surrounding pizzerias. But the dough is different, the products enriching it have changed and, surprisingly, so have the reactions of the clients who indulge in this temptation. People like this pizza and, little by little, it succeeds in demolishing the stigma of heaviness, delighting with an offer that, in coherence with Expo 2015, presents a kaleidoscope of pizzas from around the world, without falling into the cliché of the gourmet apposition. It’s a first conquest. However, a next step is necessary, a litmus test, hence the opening of a second restaurant, where the pizza is not only prepared and sold to take-away, but can be enjoyed on location: in 2016 Mani in Pasta arrives in Porta Venezia and here too hits the mark; a result achieved thanks to Andrea's meeting with his partner Redì Shijaku, and it is precisely their understanding that encourages a great leap forward for the company.
Stage 3: the pandemic-lockdown. Do they stop? Not at all: rather than relying on major delivery services, Mani in Pasta equips itself with an 'army' of mopeds, creating an in-house delivery system to show its closeness to loyal customers. In the meantime, the pandemic is over.
Stage four, the present: September 2022, Via Giovanni da Procida. We are in a brand-new place, the venue is only a few months old and yet the guests, rather than feeling immersed in a sterile box, breathe in the atmosphere of a familiar place, of a place that has always been alive.
Details of the interiors of the 'new' Mani in Pasta in Via Procida 1: new, but lived-in and cosy
Bottles, jars of preserves, warm lights, wooden tables and stone counters: all new, yet all lived in. Genuine, like the pizza, because product and setting are intimately linked. In other words, we do not set foot 'in a brand', but enter a neighbourhood pizzeria, a place tailor-made to make you feel good, whose aesthetics subtly put the guest at ease.
And guests refresh themselves above all with the served delicacies, including tasty small plates and, of course, pizza. Andrea explains: «It's easy to talk about fine pizza, but making sure it is indeed fine is something else entirely. We are literally obsessed with dough, to the point that our pizzaioli keep track of every single step through a mobile app. Nothing escapes them: room temperature, water temperature, even the storage temperature of the flour. We realise that all this takes extra effort, but we’re also aware that just a few seconds of work can change the end result.
That's why we place great importance on constancy, and we do so because we are not dealing with just any old food, packaged and ready to use, but with a dough, which is a living matter, and as such must be looked after with sensitivity». In other words, preparing the dough cannot be reduced to a mere mixing of water, yeast, salt and flour: you must respect a production cycle, the time it takes for the dough to mature and rise. And this is to safeguard the experience of the customers who, in addition to enjoying a tasty bite, must also feel that their well-being is safeguarded.
The pizzeria and restaurant team at Mani in Pasta in Via Procida 1
So, in the name of goodness and safe digestion, Mani in Pasta from day zero chose to collaborate with Petra Molino Quaglia and to use their product: «Petra Molino Quaglia flours are unmistakable: it's incredible how, when you open a bag, you can breathe in the scent of wheat, so much so that you’d like to taste it,» comments Andrea Villani.
And now let's get to the dough, which remains a secret, though we can reveal some details: the use of a blend of three types of Petra Molino Quaglia flour, each with its own structural-taste function; a working process that begins with the poolish technique; a long leavening (the whole process between ripening and leavening lasts around 36 hours). The result is a naturally low-gluten mass that, once baked, crunches under the teeth, but is more fragrant than crunchy.
Mani in Pasta's Vegan pizza: yellow date tomato sauce, pistachio cream, grilled aubergine, sun-dried tomato and courgette flower
At the same time, it melts in your mouth, a rich, full-bodied bite that lends itself to classic combinations, as well as to delicious, well-thought-out pairings: such as the bewitching pizza Vegana with sweet yellow date tomato sauce, pistachio cream, delicate and delightful, grilled aubergines to replace the texture of mozzarella, raw, velvety courgette flowers, and sun-dried tomatoes giving a Mediterranean vegetal flavour to a colourful slice.
Natural, well-thought-out, a pizza that seduces the senses in the 'new all-time pizzeria': this is the pizza at Mani in Pasta.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
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Born in Irpinia in 1991, she studied Foreign Languages at university, and then International Studies. But then she followed her heart and so her love for hospitality was born in the New Forest (U.K.). Her love for food had always been alive and kicking. After manging the hospitality at Identità Golose Milano, today she reports on flavours for Identità Golose. Isa travels, and tastes. She keeps her sensations alive through words.
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