Restaurant Spotlight: Woodfire BistroNovember 1, 2018
- Mikka WeeWords
At the ground floor of the Joya Lofts and Towers in Rockwell is Woodfire Bistro. This newly-opened restaurant takes its name from the huge wood-fired brick oven that dominates its open kitchen. Guests are greeted with the distinct scent of freshly-baked pizza and roasted meat the minute they walk through the door. They take pride in serving Italian fare such as Neapolitan pizza and fresh pasta that’s made from authentic Italian flour.
“Woodfire was conceptualized simply from our love of good food. We wanted to create a small neighborhood restaurant that served satisfying meals using premium ingredients,” says Kay Alcantara, owner of Woodfire Bistro. “All of our pizza and pasta are made by hand.”
The key difference between cooking pizza in a wood-fired brick oven versus using a more modern gas or electric model is, as Kay tells us, the consistency of the crust. “The use of a wood-fired brick oven is the traditional way of cooking pizza. One advantage of the brick oven is that the temperature rises up to 900 degrees, which is perfect for making the pizza. Our unique crust can only be cooked this way, which cannot be replicated by a regular oven. Our toppings are also crispier than normal since the extreme heat seals in the flavors,” she explains. Also, Kay informs us that the use of wood also gives the pizza a unique smoky taste not found in pizzas cooked in a commercial oven.
When we talked about handmade pasta, Kay says that compared to the packaged variety, fresh pasta has a lighter, more delicate texture, and it also absorbs the sauce better. “Moreover, with fresh pasta, we are able to be more creative in terms of the flavors and what we stuff them with,” Kay adds.
The first dish served to us was the Rucola, which, according to Kay, is a favorite in the Woodfire Bistro menu. It is a salad with a mixture of arugula, roasted beets, goat cheese, candied walnuts, apple, and balsamico. “Rucola is a combinations of flavors and textures we love,” says Kay. “The bitterness of arugula, the brittleness of candied walnuts, the creamy texture of goat cheese, the sweetness of roasted beets, and the crunch of apples!”
The 21-Layer Lasagna contains a simple trio of Italian meat sauce, mozzarella, and béchamel. We were curious as to why 21 was the magic number chosen for this dish. Kay answers my question with a question of Why not 21? As if eating a slice of lasagna with 21 layers is the most natural and normal thing in the world. Personally, I think the highest I’ve consumed only had seven layers.
“With our 21-Layer Lasagna, we wanted to showcase the effort and love that goes into making our fresh pasta,” Kay says. “True, fresh pasta is indeed a labor of love—rolling out the sheets so thin that it becomes translucent and so delicate. The lightness is simply divine,” she explains. “When layered with our homemade ragù sauce and cheeses, the flavors and textures complement each other so well that you have a product that’s so light, it’s almost airy. You’d be surprised that you can eat a whole platter without knowing it!” Which is true, by the way.
Another classic Italian pasta dish that was served to us was the Spinach Ravioli, which is made with vegetables, pomodoro sauce, and ricotta cheese. Inspired by ratatouille (the French vegetable dish, not the rat who cooks), Kay explains that her theory behind the Spinach Ravioli is that since ratatouille is vegetable-based, why not pair it with a fresh, vegetable pasta such as spinach as well. “The result is amazing. You have a play on colors here: green pasta stuffed with a medley of slow-cooked vegetables, topped with redness of tomato concasse, and ricotta cheese. It truly represents Italy—all the colors of the Italian flag,” she tells us.
Vongole is a tricky pasta dish to prepare. Its simplicity can work to the chef’s advantage or disadvantage, with the critical factor resting on the quality of the ingredients used. Woodfire Bistro’s version contains clams, pancetta, spinach, and chili oil. Kay tells us that she always makes sure that the clams are super-fresh when making this dish in order to give it justice, while the chili oil adds a spicy kick to the dish.
Kay tells us that their Pappardelle is one of the heartiest dishes on the menu. It contains short rib and gremolata, which is an herb condiment made primarily from garlic, lemon zest, and parsley. “We take pride in taking the time to cook the short ribs so that the flavors of the beef come out. The gremolata adds a citrusy hint to the dish,” says Kay.
There are a number of things Kay wanted us to know about the way Woodfire Bistro makes their pizza. “We give our dough time so flavor develops. We hand mix, roll, and shape our pizza dough. We also keep our pizza size to 12 inches, reminiscent of those found in Italy. It’s common in Italy that each person orders their own pizza as their main meal, and they are able to finish it on their own,” Kay shares.
The Tutto Carne pizza contains an assortment of Italian meats such as smoked bacon, salami, Italian sausage, guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon), and then topped with mozzarella. Kay tells us that the suppliers they work with import all of their specialty toppings. They also stick to Italian cold cuts, which according to Kay, gives the pizzas a certain authenticity of flavor.
Another pizza that was served to us was the Caprino, which is topped with goat’s cheese, leeks, garlic confit, bacon, and an egg. “The garlic confit brings out the sweetness of the garlic, which is very different from its raw state,” says Kay. “Staying true to the ‘agro-dolce (sour-sweet)’ concept, the garlic confit complements the saltiness of the bacon. Add the tangy, creamy texture of goat cheese, and you’ll have a flavorfully balanced pizza.”
Last was the Fichi pizza, which is an interesting combination of figs, prosciutto, Gorgonzola, leeks, and arugula. We asked Kay about the origin of this pizza since it really isn’t common in other Italian restaurants. “Figs are a personal favorite, and when we conceptualized Woodfire, we wanted to add some unique pizza toppings, and the Fichi is one of them,” she tells us. “The sweetness of the figs with the sharpness of the Gorgonzola, the saltiness of the prosciutto, and the bitterness of the arugula certainly gives this pizza its unique flavor,” Kay says.
We were also served some refreshments. Woodfire Bistro carries a list of coolers, which they are also known for.
“Elderflower is one ingredient not commonly used here, and we wanted our diners to try it,” says Kay. “Grapes are common, so why not add the common to the uncommon! And the result…well, you’ve got to try it! You won’t be disappointed.”
Kay also describes their Cucumber-Basil cooler as very refreshing and delicious. It would make a great palette cleanser as you wolf down plates of pasta and slices of pizza.
“Our main goal at Woodfire Bistro is to serve good food that’s satisfying, comforting and best of all, reasonable. It’s a very unpretentious restaurant,” says Kay. “It’s a great place to enjoy good food and good wine with friends and family. And sometimes, you’ll just have to try something new to appreciate it, and that’s what Woodfire Bistro is precisely doing.”