Monday, February 15, 2010

Pasta for Every-Juan

When Luigi A. calls me for a favor, I don’t say “no”. We have been buddies since my college days because I was very good friends with his sisters (and his entire family, for that matter) and we all used to hang out a lot. This guy is probably one of the nicest, friendliest most fun people I know. So, when he asks, I say “yes”.

Ok, maybe I agreed to meet up with him also because there would be pasta involved. I love pasta in all its forms and sizes. Cream, oil, tomato sauce… Heck, I’m up for it. Since Luigi is doing PR for Pizza Hut, he asked me if I would want to have a tasting of their new Pasta Perfetto range of pastas. Do I? It’s almost like he never knew me.

After two months of planning, we finally agreed to meet at the Pizza Hut branch in super busy Megamall. Honestly, I have not eaten in Pizza Hut in years, simply because I prefer the thinner, crisper crusts of other chains. Once in a while though, I would get drawn in by their banners advertizing big, generous toppings and chunky crusts loaded with cheese.

This time around, it was all about the pasta. Luigi introduced me to Edgar who is the Marketing Manager for the Pizza Hut Franchise in the Philippines. The hard-working dynamo went on to give me a blow-by-blow account of how the pastas were developed and the training that their staff had to undergo to be able to execute this new product perfectly.

Aside from the pastas that Edgar made me try, we also had some starters of Cream of Chicken Soup and Mango Shrimp Salad. The soup, as expected, was nothing special. It tasted like it came out of a can. The salad, though, was surprisingly good. The dressing was creamy and the vegetables cool and crisp.

Another appetizer was the Chicken Wings. The meat was juicy and the wings themselves were big. Unfortunately, the glaze was pretty bland.


After the mediocre start, I was eager to move on to the pastas. First to be brought out was the Chicken Pesto Penne. The tubular pasta was perfectly al dente, the pesto was creamy and fragrant. I enjoyed it so much that I ordered it again at another branch. The second one I tried was not as good as the one cooked in the Megamall branch, and I think that this would be the problem of this particular chain. According to Edgar, the pasta chefs are trained for several months, capped-off by a “final exam” wherein they have to cook all pasta recipes by memory in front of a panel. Although this gives Pizza Hut’s pastas a more upscale restaurant feel, the issue of consistency will be their biggest challenge. Despite rigorous training, I believe that it would be difficult to replicate the exact same recipe for the hundreds of Pizza Hut branches in the Philippines. But then again, I would love to be wrong.

The next pasta that was served was the Three-cheese Ravioli. At first I was put-off by the overflowing sauce, but later appreciated it since it was so tasty and garlicky. I wish I had some bread to sop it all up with! I also liked the filling which was smooth and cheesy.

Served with pride was the Seafood Supremo Pasta- linguine with seafood, tomatoes, capers in a light cream sauce, wrapped in parchment paper and then baked. The result is a rich and aromatic dish which is hearty enough for two. Luigi proclaimed this to be his favorite, and I can see why, despite the fact that I am not a fan of seafood pasta dishes. The flavors were truly intensified by the baking process which adds a special touch, something you would not normally see at this price point.

Dessert came in the form of a Baked Bread Pudding. Interestingly enough, the texture of the dish is closer to a cinnamon roll than the bread pudding that I am more accustomed to. I pointed this out to Edgar and he disclosed that the “bread” that they use is- surprise, surprise- pizza crust. Hence, the slight gumminess and bite in the middle, which is characteristic of pizza crust done right. Will I order this dish again? Probably not. Is it an inventive and cost-effective way of disposing of extra pizza dough? Definitely.

Although I usually reserve my pasta intake for really special meals (now that I have to watch my carb intake)- or those days when I’m feeling crappy and would like to pamper myself with a steaming bowl of homemade spaghetti- Pizza Hut’s Pasta Perfetto is a great addition to the food chain’s tried and tested menu dominated by pizzas. This valiant effort by the restaurant giant- although not quite perfetto yet- is definitely commendable and is surely making a lot of pasta lovers very happy.

Note: Thanks to Luigi and Edgar for treating me to dinner.

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