(STAR) By Teddy Molina -  Pinakbet pizza, anyone?

The growing popularity of this food may just push Vigan to include the new concoction among its unique attractions to local and foreign visitors here.

In due time, pinakbet pizza, which a local restaurant started serving four months ago, may compete with Vigan’s longaniza in popularity, according to Ilocos Sur Gov. Deogracias Victor Savellano.

Savellano is at the forefront of efforts to lure local and foreign tourists to the province.

Vigan is being showcased as a tourism gateway, drawing visitors through the city’s ethnic cuisine and its famous centuries-old and unshakeable ancestral houses. The stone houses have earned for the city Unesco’s billing it a world heritage site.

The governor reported that visitors go to Vigan and other places in the province to indulge in local food varieties, among them bagnet, a chunk of deep-fried pork, meat and vegetable-filled pastry empanada, native sausage longaniza, sinanglao or hot soup with cuts of beef and sweetmeats, pipian (chicken in starchy soup made from ground glutinous rice mixture), and now, pinakbet pizza.

Like any ordinary pizza, pinakbet pizza includes all the usual flavors except that it is a vegetarian’s delight. Toppings include eggplant, squash, patani beans, okra, and stringbeans (sitao) — exactly the same as a pinakbet viand.

The pizza, however, has no pork ingredient according to Noel Indoy, a Cafe Leona cook. He adds pork cubes to the vegetables to enhance the taste.

The pizza is 12 inches in diameter and is sold at P250.

Preparation includes cooking the vegetables by dousing it with bagoong (shrimp paste) in a pot. It will take 10 minutes to fashion out the pizza and have it served hot and tasty.

Indoy said it is popular to tourists. He said he cooks 50-60 pizzas a day, about a fourth of which are pinakbet pizzas.

He said pinakbet, as a viand, has been a much-patronized item in the restaurant and so Cafe Leona management, headed by former Vigan city councilor Germy Singson-Goulart, thought of having it too in pizza form.

Goulart said it was her American husband Ralph who thought of the native lines of pizzas that Cafe Leona started offering since 2007.

“It’s funny because Ralph does not know how to cook. But he is fastidious and goes after nice and good quality foods,” Germy said of her husband.

Ralph reportedly watches food channels on cable-TV and spends time surfing the Internet for research on food preparations.

She said that most of her pizza’s ingredients, except for the native pizzas, come from Italy which she buys in Manila. These are the flour dough, cheese, and tomato sauce.

Other native pizzas the restaurant makes are the longaniza pizza, which sells at P260 and the Bagnet KBL pizza.

Inside Cafe Leona yesterday, this writer chanced upon a scion of the rich Soriano family in Manila, Switzerland-based Carlos Soriano, and his friends who were taking Bagnet KBL pizza for lunch.

Soriano, who works as chef of Posthouse in St. Moriz, Switzerland, expressed his compliments. “It has unexpected combinations, very good, nice and crispy. The dough is good, the bagoong is like anchovies. It’s better than Italian pizzas,” he said.

Asked about the pinakbet pizza, he said he hadn’t tried it yet but that it would very likely be good, too.

Bagnet KBL consists of bagnet and tomatoes, bagoong, and onion.

“Naimas kano (it is good), unique,” Indoy said, quoting his customers.

Ironically, the pinakbet pizza is patronized more by visitors than Ilocanos who are known as pinakbet lovers.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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