Mamma Mia: When down-home cuisine goes Uptown
MANILA, Philippines – Italian food is the Filipino’s adopted cuisine. Save perhaps for American and Chinese, no other foreign cuisine can beat the hold Italian food has on our hearts and appetites.
For a cuisine so ubiquitous, it’s interesting to note that everyone carries their own often deeply personal notions on what Italian food is. It’s almost like a culinary rorschach test – mention Italian to a Filipino, and its bound to prompt a cascade of unique emotions and associations. For some people, Italian means sweet “spaghetchup” served by the corner Jollijeep. For others, it’s pizza, beer, good times. And then there’s the al dente police, for whom Italian should mean an adherence to traditional recipes and cooking methods.
Those are different associations for different people, but I don’t think tambayan has become one of them yet. Mamma Mia, the latest restaurant from chef Salvatore De Vincentis and restaurateur Giulius Iapino is set to change that. Located in Uptown Mall in the Bonifacio Global City, the restaurant has that mix of good food and relaxed surroundings. The duo of Salvator and Giulius hopes that Mamma Mia becomes a second home for diners.
“We want to introduce Italian dining culture to Filipinos; the kind of setup where you can stay, eat and, drink for a long time, and that is perfectly okay,” explains Giulius, who is half-Italian. "(In Italy), patrons practically stay in a restaurant from morning until nighttime. For breakfast, they would sip their espresso for hours, then for lunch, they would have fresh pasta, and then come nighttime, they would have drinks while listening to some music.”
It’s a great concept, and Mamma Mia’s ambiance is deliberately laid back, but to be honest, the food was more than enough to keep us stuck to our seats. They had us at “Italian bacon and meatballs bomb.” Don’t let the tongue-in-cheek name fool you – this is serious stuff. As the name implies, nuggets of glorious meat are wrapped in bacon, with ricotta cream cheese and marinara sauce. The meet is chunky and savory enough to prepare the palate for the coming courses.
Another starter we tried was melon and pumpkin wrapped with prosciutto al forno, which boasts of deep-fried melon and pumpkin wrapped in prosciutto. The dish offered an intriguing play in contrasts, from salty and sweet to fruity and savory. Our third starter was the caprese, a deceptively simple dish consisting of fresh cuts of buffalo mozzarella, tomato slices, basil leaves and a drizzling of olive oil.
Our first main was the pistachio pizza. Formally named mortadella e pistacchio, this pizza was both challenging and comforting at the same time. That glorious layer of pistachio cream sauce is somewhat new to the Filipino palate, but the taste was nutty and savory, which suited the more familiar flavors of the mortadella topping. Another surprise: the cheese-stuffed crust. This isn’t your fast food stuffed crust. The cheese was silky, and supported the pizza’s medley of flavors instead of distracting from it.
Next came the spaghetti alla carbonara. Everyone is familiar with carbonara. (Heck, many of us probably consider carbonara made with emulsified egg, to be the only legit version of it) But Chef De Vincenti’s carbonara just wrecks most other carbonaras we’ve tasted. We couldn’t spot any unique or novel ingredients, but this dish just tasted better than its counterparts. How does Signore De Vincenti do it? He’s not telling. When pressed, he simply smiled and said it was, of course, a closely-guarded secret.
Mamma Mia’s name can refer to either the down-home goodness of the food itself, or the expression of happiness one inevitably makes while eating there. After an evening happily devouring this food, we conclude it’s both. – Rappler.com
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