Pizza is life, as I always say. It’s a mix of everything: pomodoro sauce, lots of cheese, possibly some veggies and a protein or two over freshly baked dough. Oh man, just describing it makes me daydream of the scent of pizza fresh out of the oven…but there’s no need for me to daydream if I know a place where I can get that good ol’ loving aroma…and not just from any ordinary oven, but a turnstone oven. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Turnstone Pizza.
Located a little after Jarir Malaz, the namesake of this restaurant is its kitchen’s centerpiece: a turnstone oven. It is made of stone and turns while the pizza is led in the middle, cooked by the flames surrounding it from the inside. They have positioned themselves as artisinal, with almost all of their ingredients prepared by hand and with a specific recipe, like how their garlic must be poached in extra virgin olive oil for three days, or how delicately sliced their potatoes and eggplants are.
This newly opened pizza place is fully managed and staffed with Filipinos. We were proud to meet their store managers, Sir Ernest and Sir Gerald, who welcomed us with the signature Filipino hospitality and showed us their approach to guests in general (not just to kabayans) was to make them feel like they are amongst friends. They suggested their best sellers for us to try so we went on ahead and tasted their dishes:
This dish was a crowd pleaser and went away in an instant! A couple of scoops of ricotta cheese is hugged tight by strips of grilled eggplants and laid across a bed of pomodoro sauce topped with even more cheese and more pomodoro sauce. It’s simply indulgent and made even more delicious by a sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil on top. It was sooo good we had to order it twice.
For their salads, I must say the Panzanella salad was too citrus-y for me. As you all know, I am allergic to sour notes. What I did like was the generous amount of cherry tomatoes tho, because they were ripe and sweet. It was the vinaigrette that made me not come back for more. I did like the Chopped and Tossed Italian salad more because it was made more balanced by the addition of anchovies, which fought off the sour with its salty bites.
Now unto the pizza:
It looks like the supreme pizza viand that we’ve all come to know but its taste is far more superior than its commercial counterparts. A bite into this alerts all kinds of good vibes in your mouth with the union of cheese, sauce, pepperoni and olives. I don’t know how they did it, but that splash of pesto and an additional drip of EVOO on top just sent this pizza to outerspace. It is something all six of us in the table, highly recommends.
This flavor came in second place as we assessed our orders afterwards. The smokey cheese was really evident and the shrimp is a nice alternative from all the meat options. The shaved parmesan on top added more creaminess to every bite as it melts along.
This is one of their vegetarian options and if you’re one to ward off proteins altogether, this is your kind of pizza. I was amazed at how thinly sliced the potatoes were as they were putting it on top, before putting it in the oven and they turned out quite well. The flavors of the alfredo sauce base went well with the rest of the ingredients and the caramelized onions added a sweet touch. However, if you’re not used to herbs in general, the dried rosemary on top may bother your chewing a bit. It does however, add to the aroma of the dish.
What’s an authentic Italian restaurant without a Margherita pizza? It is the iconic pizza of Italy and simply how pizza should be eaten in the first place. It’s a bit disorienting for us who’s been so used to having meat or pepperoni in our pizzas but what you find in a margherita pizza is how it highlights the pomodoro sauce, the slices of mozarella cheese and the accent of the basil leaf for added olfactory experience.
Overall, our fondest memory from this place would be the Cheese Stuffed Eggplant, the signature Turnstone Pizza and finally, the warm welcome and conversations that ensued with the staff who not only served us but made us feel at home. Their pizzas are also very affordable with nothing costing more than 39 SAR. All pizzas are one size only with 8 slices each. As of the moment, they are only serving pizzas, salads and appetizers but will soon expand to include pasta as well — at the same time, their current location may be intimate but they do intend to open a bigger branch that’s 10 times more than this one on a later date.
Dareen Center, Al Ehsa street