Throw in the pasta!
MANILA, Philippines - Parpadelle, linguini, rigatoni, gnocchi, capellini, fettuccine, pecorino.
Stringy pasta, tape-like pasta, curly pasta, wedge-shaped pasta, green pasta, orange pasta, black pasta.
Who knew there were so many kinds of pasta?
But pasta and then some were exactly what I got when I visited the Oakwood Premier Joy~Nostalg Center Manila in Ortigas late last September.
The Italian National Pasta Month of October is taken very seriously at Oakwood; so seriously that executive chef Jerome Cartailler decided to create a whole new pasta menu that diners can avail of only from October to November 10.
Reciting the menu is like a language lesson compressed in a minute.
How would you like some linguini pasta layered with Halloumi cheese and lamb souvlaki? Or perhaps tri-colored parpadelle with spicy sauce, jerk chicken and Palermo, a combination of Italian sausage and Parma ham steeped in tomato sauce, basic, cream and Parmesan cheese?
If you’re not yet satisfied, why not try the Gnocchi Gorgonzola with Italian blue cheese and walnut cream?
In keeping with their devotion to pasta, the hotel staff even provided pasta trivia on cards along the tables such as:
- "There are more than 600 pasta shapes produced worldwide"
- "Christopher Columbus, one of Italy’s most famous pastaphiles, was born in October, National Pasta Month"
- "In the 13th century, the Pope set quality standards for pasta"
Butta la pasta!
“Throw in the pasta!” is what Italians would say when they expect their beloved pasta for lunch.
That was on everyone’s minds, too, as the courses for our pasta extravaganza started coming in.
It was one explosion of taste after another as whimsically-designed dishes made their way in front of each of us, ready to offer their divine pasta goodness.
First on the specially-prepared menu was a soup called Smoky Minestrone that seemed to me like a spicier, red sauce version of sopas. Like sopas, it used macaroni pasta.
But it had far more vegetables that were wonderfully fresh-tasting and not at all soggy as is usually the case in soups. The smooth-textured smoked beans with a smattering of pesto and risono added spice and oomph to the tomato-based soup, making it not only a harmonized blending of flavors but of textures as well.
Though the soup was quite heavy, we still had room for the main course: a Pasta Trio composed of Baked Gnocchi Gorgonzola, Squid Ink Fettuccine with seabass and Angel Hair Pecorino.
Literally and figuratively, a mouthful.
None of us knew where to start. It was a good thing that one of our tablemates, Igor Ruge, executive assistant manager at the hotel and organizer of the event, knew what to do.
He instructed us to eat the Squid Ink Fettuccine first as it was quite light and the “blandest” of the 3 pasta dishes.
The black-colored pasta noodles made me skeptical at first, but my first mouthful of the dish dispensed all hesitation. I dug right in, hooked by the saltier-than-normal taste of the noodles, blending so well with the sour-sweet burst of tomato slices, chunks of fish meat and clam.
My fork’s next target, as instructed by Igor, was the Angel Hair Pecorino.
The special thing about this red-sauce pasta dish was its encasing of a crusty, yellow basket that turned out to be made of cheddar cheese! You had to eat the pasta along with its basket to fully appreciate the entire spectrum of tastes the dish had to offer. The super salty cheese was great with the relatively blander pasta and sauce; it also brought out the fresh taste and texture of the green vegetables that topped the dish.
Last was the heavier and cheesier Gnocchi Gorgonzola.
At first glance, it didn’t look like pasta because all I could see were little mounds fully blanketed by a thick cheesy sauce, wonderfully burnt and crispy-looking in some parts. But beneath this blanket was the pasta, and each forkful brought heavenly, soft, chewy, cheesy delight.
No full-course meal is complete without dessert, and in that completely pasta afternoon, the dessert was inevitably pasta as well!
The Dark Chocolate and Vanilla Tortellini brought in front of us looked more like tiny, extravagant party hats than dessert.
On a round vanilla base of almost jelly-like consistency towered a triangular crisp skirted by 3 stuffed pasta wedges. A slice of the extraordinary dish revealed that the pasta wedges were stuffed with dark chocolate!
This pasta experience is great to share with adventurous foodie friends and loved ones. The main pasta dishes cost Php 500 to Php 650. All the pasta is made in the hotel, guaranteed fresh and al dente to all diners.
Pastaphiles can now smack their lips ala-Italian and have nothing else but pasta, or in Italian, “Pasta e basta!” - Rappler.com