Congratulations to all the foodies of the Philippines, we have officially eaten our way through the first half of 2015! The past six months have gone by in a flash and some of us may be wondering why we’ve gotten a wee bit heavier.
Let’s just go ahead and shamelessly blame the weight gain on the restaurants that have successfully enticed us with their delicious pasta bowls and mouth-watering pizzas.
Based on looloo reviews, the Filipinos’ love for Italian food is through the roof this year and there are 10 Italian restaurants that have gotten the biggest share of the spotlight:
10. Lombardi’sAverage Rating: 3.76/5.00
Chef Davide’s restaurant, Lombardi’s, prides itself as authentically Italian. As a natural educator (he used to be a full-time instructor at the Center of Culinary Arts Manila), he taught his Lombardi crew about the intricacies of the Italian cuisine so they’re able to cook up an Italian storm just like he does. Using only the freshest ingredients, the items on their menu are whipped up from scratch to represent both the rich Northern fare, as well the more Mediterranean Southern cuisine of Italy.
Some of the pizza favorites among looloo reviewers are the Quattro Formaggi and the Quattro Stagioni. The former is a heavenly concoction of four cheeses, namely provolone, fontina, gorgonzola, and mozzarella, melted on top of a thin-crust dough. The latter uses ingredients that symbolize the four seasons in Italy: forrest ham for winter, artichokes for spring, black olives for summer, and mushrooms for autumn.
Lombardi’s has branches at Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong and Robinsons Magnolia in Quezon City.
9. La Nuova PasteleriaAverage Rating: 4.73/5.00
Having been around for ages, La Nuova Pasteleria has been named as one of the best neighborhood haunts in Makati. For the lucky residents who are a just a hop and a skip away, this no-frills Italian restaurant serves as an extension of their home. With its simple charm and quiet ambiance, getting comfortable requires no effort and holding conversations poses no problem in this humble, little food haven. As for the food, La Nuova does not disappoint with its pasta dishes which are said to be up there with the best of Metro Manila.
On looloo, reviewers are all about La Nuova’s Tartufo Pasta! Its al dente tagliatelle, coated with just the right amount white truffle cream, and then topped with porcini mushrooms and parma ham is an order you’d never want to share. The Aglio Olio con Salsicce, composed of capellini with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, shrimp, and chili flakes in olive oil, as well the Vongole Al Vino Bianco, made up spaghetti with baby clams, olive oil, and white wine, are other pasta favorites at La Nuova’s.
La Nuova can be found at San Antonio Plaza, McKinley Rd., Forbes Park, Makati.
8. My Kitchen by Chef ChrisAverage Rating: 4.66/5.00
A few years ago, Chef Chris Locher came up with the ingenious idea of creating a food baby by crossing a panini with a pizza. He dubbed his invention the “panizza” and since then, it’s been in high demand at his restaurant, My Kitchen. In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a panizza, you take a handful of arugula and alfalfa sprouts and lay them on top of a strip of thin-crust pizza. You then roll it up with your fingers, take a big bite, and let your taste buds marvel at the interesting flavors and contrasting textures. The saltiness and richness of the cheese, the freshness of the greens, and the crunch of the crust is said to be a heavenly combination.
Some of the favorite toppings for My Kitchen’s panizzas are the Tinlou which is made up of bacon, ham, mushroom, and caramelized onions, the Pamela which consists of sweet ham, bacon, and salami, and the Miguel which is a mixture of spicy sausages, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and olives. Panizzas aside, the Risotto Frutti Di Mare or seafood risotto, the Risotto Tinlou or salmon fillet and prawn tails risotto, and the Eggs Benedict are also hot items on their menu.
My Kitchen by Chef Chris can be found at Oasis Park Hotel, 1032 Belen St., Paco, Manila.
7. Caruso Ristorante ItalianoAverage Rating: 4.58/5.00
Caruso is one of Makati’s best-kept secrets. Hidden in the ground floor of a furniture building in Reposo, you’d never suspect it to be a fine-dining Italian restaurant from the outside. But once you step inside, the first thing you’ll notice is how well Caruso has transformed the space into a fancy, little European nook. As looloo reviewers have said, it’s the type of restaurant you’d want visit with your significant other for a sophisticated date night. Better suit up or get dolled up though, because this place has a dress code!
To match the elegant ambiance, Caruso serves up authentic Italian dishes and is also well-stocked on fine wine. On looloo, the recommended dishes are the Homemade Raviolini with spinach, ricotta cheese, butter, and sage; and the Rolled Crepe stuffed with porcini mushrooms. For pizza, the bestsellers are the Frutti di Mare, a mix of fresh seafood, tomato, and mozzarella; the Calabrese, made up of spicy salami, bell pepper, mozzarella, tomato, and olives; and the Positano, a combination of parma ham, mozzarella, and tomato.
Caruso Ristorante Italiano can be found at 210 Nicanor Garcia St., Bel-Air, Makati.
6. Bellini’s Italian RestaurantAverage Rating: 4.31/5.00
Fun fact: A scene from the Pinoy movie favorite “One More Chance” was filmed right at the very tables of Bellini’s Italian Restaurant! If you’re a fan and would like to relive the Popoy and Basha moment, you can request to be seated at the same, exact spot where Bea Alonzo and John Lloyd Cruz gazed into each other’s eyes.
But trivialities aside, Bellini’s is actually more known for its authentic Italian food. With a very hands-on Italian owner who does the cooking himself, you can be sure that the place serves up the real thing.
Everyone on looloo insists that the Spinach Gnocchi is a knock-out. The dish takes a while to cook, but this is understandable, given that pasta is handmade after all. Other favorite entrees are the Spaghetti Truffle Cream Pasta and the Bruschetta. The complimentary bread sticks and the shots of sweet wine from the owner are a nice touch also.
Bellini’s Italian Restaurant has branches at Cubao Expo in Quezon City and Shoe Ave., Marikina.
5. CiboAverage Rating: 4.38/5.00
This Italian restaurant, having been around for so long, has got to be an institution in Manila by now! Anyone who has gotten hungry in EDSA Shang, from the high school barkadas who hang out in the mall to the titas who go on their shopping sprees, has ended up at Cibo at some point. Most of us us don’t even have to look at the menu anymore to know what we want to order. (Just get me my usual, please!) Time is a true test of a restaurant’s success and surely, Cibo has passed with flying colors with four and a half looloo stars to match!
Of course, we all know about Cibo’s famous Spinach Dip appetizer–this will never get old! Other Cibo classics include the Costolette D’Agnello, or grilled lamb chop which everyone claims melts in the mouth, and their ever-so-creamy Penne della Terra, or truffle pasta.
Cibo has branches at Shangri-La Plaza, Greenhills Promenade, Power Plant Mall, Greenbelt 5, Robinsons Magnolia, Alabang Town Center, Eastwood Mall, Gateway Mall, Glorietta 4, Lucky Chinatown Mall, and ABS-CBN Compound.
4. Va Bene Pasta DeliAverage Rating: 4.44/5.00
The original Va Bene Pasta Deli, which so many have come to love, is tucked away beside a gas station along EDSA. But now, there’s even more to love because Va Bene opened up a new branch in BGC. It has the same simple and honest feel as its predecessor, but don’t let its humble interiors fool you because this Italian hole-in-the-wall whips up some of the best pasta dishes this side of Manila.
Just like any good Italian restaurant would do, it whets the palate first with some complimentary bread and salsa which many looloo reviewers claim to be “so good in itself that it’s hard to stop at just one serving.” For your appetizer, you can go for the popular Polipo Salad which consists of thinly-sliced braised octopus, tomatoes, olives, and arugula. And for your main dish, some Va Bene favorites are the Organic Egg Tagliatelle, Ricotta Eggplant Tortellini, and Black Ink Tagliolino.
Va Bene Pasta Deli has branches in Bonifacio High Street Central in Taguig and Petron Gas Station, EDSA cor. Pasay Rd., in Makati.
3. Linguini FiniAverage Rating: 4.09/5.00
When Linguini Fini first stepped onto the Filipino food scene, the question that was on everyone’s mind was: “Can this restaurant from Hong Kong really live up to Italian cuisine?” And based on looloo reviews so far, the answer seems to be a resounding “Yes!”
This Italian restaurant made its debut in the country in 2014 when it opened its first branch in the Mega Fashion Hall at SM Megamall and it has proven to be quite the crowd pleaser. If you’re planning on trying their food, don’t hesitate to ask the Linguini Fini crew for their recommendations. They know their stuff and can help demystify the Italian dishes we can’t seem to read or pronounce.
On to the menu, The Pappardelle “Nose to Tail” Bolo (a pasta dish topped with chunks of pig face, veal loin, and ox tail) is on everyone’s must-try list. Other dishes that are also highly raved about are the Bronx Pizza, the Italian Hanger Cobb, the Tagliatelle Porchetta, and the Classic Linguini Fini Pomodori.
Linguini Fini can be found at 3/F Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong.
2. Friuli TrattoriaAverage Rating: 4.15/5.00
Friuli Trattoria is an Italian restaurant that is kind to everyone’s wallets. On days when you’re craving for some pasta or pizza but low on cash, take a trip to Maginhawa and look for this humble eatery.
It may not have the fancy interiors of an upscale pizzeria but its unpretentious charm will quickly win you over. It’s got an easy-going vibe to it that you and your friends can easily get comfortable in without having to worry about proper Italian dining etiquette. (Yes, you can eat your pizza with your hands!) You may have to climb a steep and narrow staircase to get to the second floor where the tiny dining area is, but you’ll soon find out that the food makes up for this.
Among the hordes of people who come to Friuli Trattoria to feast, the bestselling pasta seems to be the Tuna and Mushroom, said to have the perfect amount of spiciness to it. As for pizza, the top three favorites are the rich and heavenly Tre Formaggi, the fresh and flavorful Margherita and the meaty and savory Viva Venezia. But really, you can’t go wrong with any order because ₱190 for a 10-inch pizza will always be worth it.
Friuli Trattoria can be found at 79 Maginhawa St., Teachers Village, Quezon City.
1. Mama Lou’s Italian KitchenAverage Rating: 4.67/5.00
Dining at Mama Lou’s Italian Kitchen is an experience akin to visiting your sweet, old grandma. This residential house-turned-restaurant gives off a comforting vibe that can make even the manliest of men feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And just like at lola’s house, you get spoiled with food that breaks your no-carb diet but makes the soul oh-so-happy.
Mama Lou’s crew is a lively bunch as well, and they will make sure you get what you ask for as soon as possible. You may have to fight for a seat in this rustic Italian abode though, because it is always a full house. So before you make that long drive to BF Homes, hit them up with a call and reserve!
The dish that stands out as the crowd favorite is named after the restaurant itself–the Mama Lou’s Special. It is a thin-crust pizza topped with the sweet, salty, and fresh flavors of mangoes, tomatoes, mozzarella, prosciutto, and arugula. Other entrees that also bring in diners are the Pizza Bianca, Spaghetti Seafood Olio, Creamy Salmon Linguini, and Risotto Tartufo Funghi.
Mama Lou’s has branches at BF Homes in Las Piñas, UP Town Center in Quezon City, and Solenad 2 in Nuvali, Santa Rosa, Laguna.