When life gets complicated, we yearn for simple pleasures. Take pizza. Pizza exists for one purpose, and one purpose only: to please.
Whether you enjoy the maths or metabolism involved in pizza – counting its pi or eating a pie – the promise of gratification awaits. Perhaps the day seems dreary or the week has left you weary. You want to sink your teeth into something that will take your troubles away; comfort food, soft but with a decent chew that warms stomach and soul alike.
Make it vegan or meaty enough to lure a carnivore out of hiding; Neapolitan-style floppy or Romanesque thin and crunchy; toppings restrainedly appointed or liberally layered on in a deep-dish pizza. It is an infinitely versatile food, easy and fun in times of celebration yet solid and sure enough to hold onto when tensions are running high and the future seems uncertain.
In her New York Times bestseller, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, cook and author Samin Nosrat explores the core elements of good cooking. Salt flavours, fat imparts flavour and texture, acid brightens and balances, and heat texturizes. All four are present in pizza, from the brightness of crushed tomatoes to the rounded fattiness of buffalo mozzarella.
A new crop of pizza parlours have opened across the Klang Valley and we vetted three in different districts for your ease of access: WOP Pizzeria, Pepo Pizza and Heritage Pizza. Only the first two offer delivery at the moment, but dine-in and takeaway at all three parlours will see you through lockdowns and late nights alike. Pizza does not always travel well and is best enjoyed hot from the oven as the aroma of baking bread curls through the air, but desperate times call for desperate measures and you can still relish a remote experience.
In the middle of the B.Land mixed-use development in Petaling Jaya is a standalone structure that wears a cheery exposed brick façade. Pepo Pizza is the brainchild of Italian cuisine veterans Chong Yeng Yuen and Tan Jin Yang and seasoned F&B operations and management director Judy Chao. It serves a spread that goes beyond its name with an extensive menu spanning rustic dishes such as gently pan-fried seabass (RM28), fork-tender braised lamb shank (RM42) and the black angus burger (RM26) that sandwiches a still-pink patty between pepperoni slices, onion chutney and cheese.
But it is undoubtedly the pizzas that steal the show. The dough is made fresh daily and left to proof for a few hours before being baked in an authentic woodfire oven. The signature Pepo Pizza (RM34) with chicken meatballs, charred zucchinis, olives and cherry tomatoes leans towards mild, but the Lamb Ragu (RM39), rich with shredded braised lamb, sliced parmesan and mozzarella, sour cream and a heaping of arugula, begs a repeat.
Vegetarians might dive into the Mushroom & Truffle Pizza (RM37), in which white and trumpet mushrooms on a cream base are blessed with mozzarella and bathed with truffle oil. Keen on a pizza-themed dessert? Choose between the House Special (RM22) with mozzarella, wild honey and mixed nuts, and the sinfully indulgent Chocolate Cloud (RM24) overflowing with fluffy, smoked marshmallows. Pick your poison from the decent wine or beer lists to make an occasion of it.
Lot 5, B. LAND, 2, Jalan 51a/225, Seksyen 51a, PJ. 017-245 8035. Tues to Sun, 11am-3pm, 5pm till late.
Crust is almost a religion here, with its tagline ‘In crust we trust’. Sourdough is the bread of choice, preferred for the deep flavour it brings to the table with a pleasing fermented tang. Italian flour coldly fermented for 48 hours and a woodfire oven piled with rubber and mangrove firewood create fluffy yet dense crust with a crisp base and edges charred with air-filled bubbles. Combine this with mozzarella made in-house and you have the virtue of simplicity exemplified, in which few, high-quality ingredients make for a mean mouthful.
The Margherita (RM34) is an exercise in classic elegance but you cannot go wrong with the cayenne and garlic-marinated Spicy Shrimp Garlic (RM47) or the Portobello with Truffle Oil (RM43), heady with the earthy aroma of black truffle-infused olive oil. Contrast the acidic sharpness of a hand-crushed San Marzano tomato base and the creaminess of a ‘bianco’ base in the Quattro Formaggi (RM39), both available with the foursome of sharp and soft cheeses including mozzarella, ricotta, gorgonzola and Parmiggiano Reggiano.
Founded by husband-and-wife team Ikmal Burhanuddin and Azara Nur Abdul Rahman in 2015, this at-home business gained a storefront in Shah Alam before moving to its current location in Plaza Damas earlier this year. Regulars from the maiden outlet will find it worth their while to drive over for a sourdough pie – here is flavour you do not quickly forget.
H-0-8, Plaza Damas, 60 Jalan Sri Hartamas 1, KL. 03-6419 7530. Daily, 11am-10pm.
If in the Chow Kit area around lunchtime, Heritage Pizza serves a killer calzone (RM54), filled to bursting with creamy, oozy burrata and organic tomatoes. Come sunset, however, tomato-based pizzas hold court at the arcade formerly known as Heritage Row. The Diavola (RM38) is not as fiendish as its devilish name suggests with a sprinkling of mild chilies but the Bresaola e Rucola (RM46) is a beautiful composition of air-dried beef, arugula and mozzarella. Meanwhile the Calabrese (RM42) features a surprising pairing of cured Italian ham and tiny broccoli florets. Extra mozzarella or burrata can be added upon request.
Crust is everything here – little surprise with Milan-born and Vincenza-bred owner Antonio Delachi at the helm (oven?). While Heritage Pizza employs the same 48-hour cold fermentation as WOP, its quick-baked pies – popped into the mangrove woodfire oven for just three minutes – are thin and crisp.
The only anomaly is the Nutella Pillow Pizza (RM30). As soft and thick as its pillowy name suggests, folded into itself with crunchy edges, it embraces a slathering of Nutella while its gelato crown sends icy rivulets of sweetness trickling down the hot-from-the-oven dessert. Alternatively, skip the heat and have the homemade gelato on its own. We first thought to pass on it, sure our stomachs had run out of space, but the lavender and pistachio are worth are worth making room for. A brisk walk around the charming neighbourhood after will take care of any guilt.
26-G, Jalan Doraisamy, Chow Kit, KL. 03 2602 1919. Tues, 6pm-10pm; Wed to Sun 12pm-2pm, 6pm-10pm.
This article, which has been updated online, first appeared on Oct 26, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.