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At Marabella, pizza-making is an art form

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The Marabella Pizza with pepperoni, sausage, beef, ham, bacon, mushrooms, green peppers and onions.

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Christina Ruotolo

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

What do you get when you combine award-winning handmade pizza dough, sauce made from scratch and decades-old Italian culinary tradition? You get Marabella Old World Pizza.

The restaurant focuses on making traditional pizza the way it is made in Italy and in real New York-style pizzerias. It also offers appetizers, salads, panzerottis, subs, wraps, paninis, pastas, meatballs and classic Italian desserts. You can eat classic Italian menu items like the antipasto salad, pepperoni roll, eggplant Parmesan sandwich or maybe a slice of the sweet Limoncello cake. Prices range from $3-$20.

Owners and Italy natives Salvatore Passalacqua and Massimo Mannino opened the restaurant in 2009 and focused on bringing their Italian family recipes to the forefront. The secret to the Marabella’s pizza magic starts with handcrafted dough.

Marabella makes two types of dough in-house: a Neapolitan and a Sicilian dough. The Neapolitan is a New York-style dough that is thinner with a crispy bite. The Sicilian is a softer dough with more air pockets because it rises longer. It’s proofed once for 24 hours and then proofed a second time. It’s pressed into a square shape versus the traditional circle style with the Neapolitan dough.

Passalacqua’s favorite part of cooking is the dough making. Making dough is a little like being in a science lab with ratios of protein content versus water content, along with other factors to consider, including humidity and water temperature.

“I love mixing the dough like a chemist and trying different mixtures,” Passalacqua said. To Passalacqua and Mannino, pizza-making is an art form, where they add their culinary genius and traditions in every pizza that is served.

Once the dough is shaped and placed on a board, it is topped with the locally famous pizza sauce. Marabella’s puts just as much love in the sauce as the dough, importing Italian-style pear tomatoes. The tomatoes are pureed, and then pepper, salt, garlic, sugar, butter, basil and onions are added. After the sauce, add your favorite toppings from pepperoni, roasted peppers, hot salami, green peppers just to name a few, or maybe you are feeling adventurous and want to finally try anchovies on your pizza.

Marabella’s also uses two types of cheese: a house-made fresh mozzarella and shredded Wisconsin mozzarella. Once the pizza is sauced, dressed and loaded with cheese, it’s placed in the super-hot deck oven that has a lava rock on the bottom. A few minutes later, your pizza comes out hot, cheese bubbling, ready to be devoured.

For my tasting, I sampled three of the restaurant’s popular pizzas. I started with the Marabella pizza made with the Neapolitan dough with pepperoni, sausage, beef, ham, bacon, mushrooms, green peppers and onions. You can taste the Italian love after just one bite. The crust had a nice bite, and the hearty toppings were savory and filling. This is a perfect Sunday night pizza to eat while watching the game.

The next pizza I tried was the Grandma pizza, which is a square thin-crust pizza made with Sicilian dough and topped with tomato sauce and fresh and smoked mozzarella. The perfect pizza for any occasion with its simple, yet satisfying toppings.

The last pizza I sampled was the thick-cut Sicilian pizza topped with mozzarella and marinara. It was classic and flavorful with the creamy, gooey cheese flirting with the sweet pizza sauce. The sides of the pizza have that crispy, melted cheese for a nice side crisp, and the inside of the dough was soft and slightly chewy. Just two toppings and a crispy crust is all you need for pizza perfection, by far my favorite.

It’s no wonder the Italian pizza duo of Passalacqua and Mannino are winning awards left and right. They have competed and placed in several international challenges throughout the years. Some awards include third place in the Western Culinary Trials Classico division in 2016; second place in the International Pizza Challenge Pan Pizza division in 2016; second and fourth place, International Pizza Competition in 2016; Signature Chef at March of Dimes’ Chefs Auction in 2013, 2014 and 2015; March of Dimes People’s Choice winner in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017; Best Pizza (awarded to Marabella Old World Pizza) in Mixer Magazine, 2010, 2011 and 2012; Best Pizza (awarded to Marabella Old World Pizza) in Best of Greenville competition in 2017; as well as being a 2018 Southeast Pizza Champion. They were also featured on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Weekend program, and they competed in the Annual World Pizza Championship in Parma, Italy for the last two years.

Marabella offers specials throughout the week. On Sundays-Tuesdays, enjoy the family special that is a 16-inch cheese pizza with one topping, family-style spaghetti and meatballs or baked ziti, and 12 garlic knots for $29.95. On Wednesdays, the pizza special is a 16-inch cheese pizza with any two toppings for $15.25. Catering is available.

Marabella Old World Pizza is at 1898 S.E. Greenville Blvd. Hours are from 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. View the complete menu at www.marabellapizzeria.com. For pick-up or delivery, order online or call 754-2700.

Riley’s Army fundraisers

■ From 11 a.m.-2 p.m. today, Chick Fil A, 4239 Winterville Parkway, Winterville, will donate 20 percent of all milkshake sales to Riley’s Army.

■ On the first Tuesday of each month, Papa John’s will donate 15 percent of your pizza order to Riley’s Army. Use the code RILEY15 to associate your order with the fundraising event.

Bone Appetit

The Humane Society of Eastern Carolina will host a Bone Appetit fundraising event from from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday at Famiglia, 740 W. Fire Tower Road, Winterville. A percentage of all food and drink sales will be donated to HSEC. Write “for HSEC” on the receipt and alert the server.

Barks and Brews

The Humane Society of Eastern Carolina will host a Barks and Brews fundraising event from 5-8 p.m. Aug. 10 at Trollingwood Taproom and Brewery, 707 Dickinson Ave. Twenty-five percent of each purchase will benefit the Humane Society. Leashed, well-behaved dogs are permitted outside.

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