Kneading romance out of a pizza dough | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

CHEF Alexander Tanco cooks his pizza in a custom-built pugon oven at home. ANDREW TADALAN

Chef Alexander Lichaytoo Tanco prefers simple, easy-to-prepare food when cooking for his girlfriend, Liz Yap.

Thin-crust pizza in all its glorious toppings—truffles, anchovies, fresh basil, mozzarella cheese, cream cheese, pomodoro sauce and fresh herbs and spices—and Angus beef burger in brioche buns.

“We would both prepare the pizza dough,” says 26-year-old Tanco. “Since we do it manually we take turns in kneading the dough. It’s a teamwork between Liz and I.”

Tanco and Yap have been together for a year now. It’s been a plus point for Tanco being a chef and Yap, a food writer from Yummy Magazine. Their common interest would definitely be food.

“I recall our first date all we talked about was food, food and more food,” says Tanco, who also remembers that they were introduced twice by two different people who don’t know each other.

“It’s kind of funny, at least we get to relate in a lot of stuff. Sometimes it’s even hard to eat out together because we tend to overanalyze things,” Tanco says.

Tanco bakes the pizza in a specially made brick oven, pugon-style, at home in New Manila. With this oven, Tanco said, high heat and short time brings out new flavors that a conventional oven will never have.

He creates unique combinations of pizza that cannot be found anywhere else. He makes Truffle Pizza (a combo of cream cheese and truffle paste) and Pissaladiere (mix of cream cheese, caramelized onions and anchovies), and Arugula.

His girlfriend isn’t much of a wine drinker, but just the same, Tanco pairs the pizza with white wine.

“We don’t usually like to eat fancy food like foie gras,” Tanco says. “The simpler the better. A romantic dinner for us is where we both cook for each other.”

They once had a romantic dinner of Angus beef burger, prepared from scratch, at Tanco’s family farm in Tanauan, Batangas. They had the meat ground and seasoned with salt and pepper. The grilled beef patty was topped with gruyere cheese and buttery brioche buns, which they also baked together.

“I cook as much as I can, but sometimes we just want to relax and eat out,” says Tanco, son of Anabel Lichaytoo Tanco, owner and founder of Philippine Pastries Inc. that operates Bizu Patisserie.

Life as a chef

Tanco finished culinary arts at the College of Saint Benilde and went straight to Shanghai, China, to work in a restaurant called Le Platane and currently in Bizu Patisserie.

At Bizu, he’s in charge of the research and development department, where he creates new items for the menu, standardizes operations and finds new ideas to bring in the company.

He admits he took up culinary arts because of her mom’s influence.


“I guess food runs in our blood. Being exposed to the family business at an early stage made me decide that there wasn’t anything else I would rather do than be in a kitchen,” he says.

Tanco recalled what it was like when he was starting out as a chef.

“It was really difficult during my first job in Shanghai. There was a large language gap, the techniques are all new. I didn’t know anyone. Basically you’re on your own. Being raised sheltered and now being exposed to these things made me tougher.”

But, if he were not a chef, what would he be doing?

“I’ve always loved creating things. I guess I wouldn’t mind being an architect or an industrial engineer.”

Tanco reveals he’s partial to French food, the old style. Braised meats, non-garnished, served as is, is what he would find most interesting. Coming back from Cambodia, he has found another love of Indochine food.

Asked about the chefs he looks up to in the culinary arena, Tanco says:

“There are so many chefs who aren’t known worldwide or maybe non-mainstream chefs who are just as good sometimes even better. To name a few, chef Riku Lek (Singapore); chef Danna Yu (Taipei); chef Justin Quek (Singapore); chef Marc Aubrey (Champetre); and chef Ronnie Reyes (Bizu). ”

Pizza Delights

Basic pizza dough:

Yield: 3 pcs  250-g pizza dough

This pizza dough is as simple as a basic ciabatta recipe. Rolling out to paper thin may be tricky try using a rolling pin. There are no rules on what shape your pizza may be so try having squares or oval shapes and once you serve it to your guest just tell them its rustic.

1 tsp instant yeast

1 cup water

1 tbsp olive oil

3 cups bread flour

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

Mix all dry ingredients together and create a small well in the center of the mound. Add water and continuously knead until gluten has formed. Cut and portion to 250 g each. Roll into small ball shape. Cover with a towel and allow to rest for about 30 minutes. Once rested, flatten and roll out with a rolling pin until thin almost paper thin. Place toppings and bake in oven about 230-250 ºC for about 5-7 minutes or until cheese has melted and dough is nice and crisp. Serve immediately.

Truffle Pizza


My favorite pizza. Simple yet very easy to prepare. You may purchase the Salsa Tartufatta in any Bacchus outlet. The combination of cream cheese and truffle paste create a new variety of aromatic flavor. Optional to add arugula in the end for simple spicy kick.

½ c softened cream cheese

1 c Salsa Tartuffata

1 c mozzarella cheese, grated

Follow basic pizza dough. Before baking, spread softened cream cheese followed by adding Salsa Tartufatta and grated mozzarella cheese. You may add arugula after baking to enhance freshness.

Pizza Margherita

The most popular of all pizzas. It’s simple yet very delicious. I enjoy it using tomato from Baguio City, which has more juice and sweetness to it. Adding fresh basil is a must. Always get the fresh basil. Don’t settle with dried basil.

½ c reduced pomodoro sauce

1 pc large tomato, sliced

1 c mozzarella cheese, grated

½ c fresh basil leaves

Follow basic pizza dough. Before baking, spread reduced pomodoro sauce followed by sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Bake in the oven. Once done randomly sprinkle fresh basil leaves around the pizza. Serve immediately.


A pizza-like dish from Southern France, this is largely unknown in the Philippines. You will be surprised with the tartness of the cream cheese and the sweetness of caramelized onions, plus the addition of the anchovies that gives that extra kick on the taste buds.

Caramelized onions:

4 c sliced white onions

1 tsp olive oil

1 pinch salt

For the caramelized onions: heat oil in a pan in a low heat setting. Add the sliced onions and a pinch of salt. Constantly stir until onions have properly browned and caramelized through about 45 minutes to an hour. Set aside.

½ c softened cream cheese

1 c caramelized onions

½ c anchovies

1 tsp thyme leaves, fresh

1 c mozzarella cheese, grated

Follow basic pizza dough recipe. Before baking, spread softened cream cheese followed by caramelized onions, anchovies and thyme. Sprinkle grated mozzarella cheese around the pizza. Bake in the oven. Once done you may add again arugula leaves for freshness.

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