October 5, 2020 – The competition on the pizza market is growing, and they have decided to take a classic off the menu. Boldness or experience? TCN meets O’Hara’s new menu.
Malesnica, on the west side of Zagreb, hides a not so big restaurant, but it does have a pretty big name here in Croatia. Namely, O’Hara serves only the best food prepared by their expert chef’s hands. Domagoj Kralj, the current restaurant manager, told us that they have a lot of food from Italy.
“We pay a lot of attention to quality; that’s why we have even San Marzano tomatoes from a subvolcanic area. It is sweet as it should be, without the acids of pasteurized concentrates,” said Domagoj, who spent a couple of months working on the new menu, along with his colleague Martin Karabajic.
But, as Domagoj stated, everything paid off; now, they have a new menu with more than the usual combination of food, and it will overshadow the existing menu. For example, a pizza named Imperatore gives quite the rhapsody of taste: truffle cream, fior/mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella, beef carpaccio, mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, shi-take, chanterelles, sheep cheese, basil, and olive oil.
“It was a pretty big deal to design 18 new pizzas; when you get the idea of a new pizza, you have to make it several times to get the right ration,” said Domagoj, who worked in many different places and learned from the ideas and knowledge of various chefs.
The goal of their pizza is to be entirely soft. “The enzyme alpha-amylase processes it, so the dough becomes sweeter, the palate and the tongue stick together, and there is nothing sharp,” said Domagoj.
But another important thing is not to feel heaviness in the stomach after eating the pizza – that’s why the dough ages for a very long time, even up to 72 hours. The O’Hara team provides a lot of attention to the dough-making technology. In addition to the fact that they make the dough from just four ingredients, one of the secrets they have revealed to TCN is that there is little room for the yeast.
“You know those small black marks on the edges of pizza? Those are leftover flour crumbs. We have a fantastic pizzaiolo, Ivana Petrovic, who makes pizza without these dots. This is very difficult to achieve, but there should be no flour left on the pizza’s edges,” said Domagoj, who also explained that the Maillard reaction is more than needed on pizza.
O’Hara has been the state champion for the past few years, and they also went to the world championships. As Domagoj said, it is branded pizza; everything is rigorous. There is no room for mistakes. “People were thinking we’d gone crazy when we introduced Napolitana to Croatia, it is the most difficult pizza to make and is known as the ‘queen of pizzas’. It boasts highly hydrated dough, the dough’s temperature in the preparation, the oven temperature, should be 460 degrees, the temperature of fireclay, conduction, convection, and of course, the hands of the professional.”
Now, many pizzerias have Napolitana on offer, so the competition is showing. And yet, the classic pizza, the Capricciosa, didn’t make it to the new O’Hara menu. “People like to try something new, and we have always enjoyed impressing people. But there is no compromise here: no lower class food or bad ingredients – we built our reputation precisely on our quality, and we will continue this way,” said Domagoj, who noted that the dough is the base for everything.
The flour they use is top class, and some ingredients are taken from Croatian family farms. They are currently also collaborating with Food Innovation. Proof that the O’Hara team pays attention to detail is the fact that they don’t use stick mixers for tomatoes. When it comes to San Marzano, the chef crushes it with his own hands and spreads it on the pizza – this way, every part of the tomato is used.
With the change of ownership, they changed the dough a bit, too. The current team worked at O’Hara in its golden age. They separated briefly, and now the whole team is together again, led by the new owner Zorana Savic. The O’Hara cooking team is made up of the above-mentioned pizzaiolo Ivana Petrovic, Ivan Kavelj, the winner of many competitions and the Croatian Cup, and Aleksandar Maricic, an expert in pasta. As a chef himself, Domagoj will occasionally hold a daily special.
The new menu will have salads and desserts, but again, not ordinary ones. For example, a salad named Chiaroscuro hides in it arugula, smoked salmon, toasted walnuts, fresh dill, honey mustard dressing, Creme Fraiche, radish, and champignons. For those who prefer something sweet but yet bitter, the dessert is a must: vanilla cream, bread with special dough, toasted walnuts, pear, and one cube of dark chocolate. The cream, which will be baked in the oven, will swell and be fluffy because of the eggs, the dark chocolate’s bitterness will hold the balance, and crunchy walnuts and the refreshing pear will give the final touch.
“Every new dish we design is done with lots of knowledge, but also love. Our idea is to achieve umami and show this passion to our customers,” said Domagoj.
Malesnica is often used as a synonym for a remote part of town, but O’Hara is a pretty big reason to visit Zagreb’s west side. As Domagoj told us, they don’t feel the cons of not being in the center of the city. O’Hara has its parking lot, a quiet neighborhood, and above all, carefully selected ingredients, processed by the chef’s hands only.