On your recent visit to Bohol, you must have viewed the magnificent Chocolate Hills in Loboc, stared at an adorable tarsier in Corella, admired the cultural treasure that is Baclayon Church and chilled like a villain in one of Panglao Island’s many beaches. You must have also been told that no one leaves the island province without ordering pizza from the Italian-run restaurants on Panglao Island.
There’s A Tavola, along Alona Beach Road, owned by an Italian chef from Naples, and Sicily, along Dao Circumferential Road in Dauis, ideal for date nights with its polished ambience and beautiful garden.
The latest addition to A Tavola and Sicily is Toto e Peppino, which opened in January this year and is already earning rave reviews from patrons, some even making the bold claim that it has the best pizza in the Philippines.
“Its crust, which might be the best I’ve tried in the Philippines so far, is the perfect blend of chewy inside, crusty and slightly charred outside. It smells and tastes great, just salty enough and there’s no hint of sweetness, which I hate in pizzas,” says filmmaker and pizza lover Moira Lang.
What makes Toto e Peppino’s pizza special? The secret ingredient isn’t what’s placed on the pie, it is about how they cook it. Owners Massimo Montisano and Giuseppe Biasella serves wood-fired pizza cooked on a brick oven imported from Naples, the birthplace of this popular dish.
The cooker, made by the Forni di Costanzo company, is made from volcanic clay, which traps heat efficiently and cooks the pizza perfectly in less than two minutes – Neapolitan style. “It is 99.99 percent the same taste of pizza that you will get in Italy,” Montisano proudly says.
Montisano was born in Genoa – famous for pesto – and grew up eating pizza, spaghetti and foccacia bread. “I grew up with dough,” he jokes. He started cooking pizza pies professionally when he was 17, at Marina Ices, in north London, famous for its gelatos. He moved back to Italy after that, but in 2011 he visited Bohol upon the insistence of his uncle’s Filipina wife, who has a house here.
Montisano immediately fell in love with the tropical island and decided to move and live here permanently in 2013. That’s when he opened an Italian restaurant with Biasella, called Noah, which also served good pizza, cooked this time in an ordinary electric oven imported from Italy. With the drop in tourism because of the Covid-19 lockdown, they decided to temporarily close Noah in March.
Their new venture, Toto e Peppino, is named after an iconic Italian comic duo from Naples. “We have a better location now because there’s three times more parking space and we can seat up to 60 people,” says Montisano. Business has picked up since Bohol started allowing tourists to enter in June.
The pizzeria offers up to 20 types of 14-inch pies. “Our two bestsellers are the Truffle Pizza, which is made with mozzarella and truffle sauce; and the Four Cheese Pizza, which has gorgonzola, fontina, parmesan and mozzarella.” They also serve lasagna, carbonara, seafood soup and bruschetta. Apart from local flour used to make dough, all the ingredients are imported from Italy.
No wonder the restaurant is earning a lot of fans, including Lang, who has been eating there regularly since May. “For pizzas, I recommend the Suprema, which has pancetta and onion that caramelizes in the red sauce; and the Four Seasons, but you must order this one capricciosa-style so ham, mushroom, olives are spread out on the pie.
Toto e Peppino Pizza Ristorante Italiano is along Alona Beach Road and operates every day from 10am to 10pm.