restaurants in Metro Manila

Cherry tomatoes galore! Try Mama Lou’s Margherita Pasta, help farmers in need

Steph Arnaldo

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Cherry tomatoes galore! Try Mama Lou’s Margherita Pasta, help farmers in need
An excess of 1.5 tons of cherry tomatoes from Benguet are being turned into roasted cherry tomato confit and pasta by Mama Lou's!

MANILA, Philippines – Mama Lou’s Italian Kitchen is taking us on a noble farm-to-fork journey as the homegrown restaurant begins its cherry tomato rescue initiative supporting local farmers in Benguet.

The effort is “ripe” for success – Mama Lou’s told Rappler that the restaurant is incorporating an influx of cherry tomatoes from the Cordillera region into their menu. This isn’t just a sweet bonus for Mama Lou’s customers; it also directly benefits the farmers who produce these juicy tomatoes.

The ‘roots’ of the initiative

“The excess in cherry tomatoes came from farmers in Atok and La Trinidad, who initially planted these tomatoes at the request of a middleman,” World Food Expo (WOFEX) project lead for CSR Harold Lu told Rappler. The middleman urged them to plant up to a ton of tomatoes, a promise the farmers held onto.

For the first few deliveries, they were able to sell most of their harvest (up to 700 kilograms). However, when prices were falling and the cherry tomatoes were reaching their peak, the middleman suddenly reduced their order to 200 kg, which left them with 800 kg to 1.5 tons of excess produce, which they were hoping the middleman would help them dispose of. Unfortunately, they were left high and dry.

This was where Mama Lou’s stepped in to help, thanks to an existing relationship with Sherly, a farming collaborator, and its partnership with the Cordillera region office of the Department of Agriculture.

“The farmers from Benguet have excess production of cherry tomatoes with no buyers. I said yes and immediately had one ton delivered to Metro Manila,” shared David.

“The cherry tomatoes from Benguet are fresh, sweet, and very flavorful. It was perfect for us to make a tomato confit out of it.”

The secret sauce: From vine to dine

Cherry tomato confit is a method of preserving tomatoes by slow-cooking them in olive oil with garlic, herbs, and sometimes other spices, until the slightly tart tomatoes are softened yet still juicy and plump. This technique enhances the natural sweetness and flavor of the tomatoes, making them an easy-to-use, versatile ingredient for many dishes – pasta, pizza, salads, bruschetta, meat, fish, and more.

It’s a challenge to sell one ton of tomatoes in a short amount of time, but Mama Lou’s is coming in hot with a special promotion to make the produce accessible to their patrons. The restaurant’s new, limited-edition Cherry Tomato Margherita Pasta, priced at P550 for two orders, features roasted cherry tomato confit, garlic, basil, and a hint of chili.

Mama Lou’s is also selling the tomato confit in big and small jars across all Mama Lou’s branches starting Friday, July 5. The 32-oz jar costs P550, the 21-oz jar costs P375, and the 8-oz jar costs P265.

“This initiative not only helps reduce food waste but also allows us to provide our customers with a fresh, flavorful, and affordable meal option. Every order makes a difference in supporting our hardworking farmers,” the brand said.

Seeing its long-term potential, David Sison, co-founder and CEO of Mama Lou’s Hospitality Group, emphasized the broader impact of this initiative.

“We’ve committed to buying one ton per week, or four tons per month, from the farmers beginning next week. This commitment ensures we use local cherry tomatoes for our pizza and pasta sauces,” David told Rappler.

“This initiative is not only for our customers who will enjoy our new dishes but also for the welfare of the farmers who will directly benefit from this.”

A win-win for all

Harold and David also sought the help of Chef Waya Araos-Wijangco, owner of Gypsy Baguio and a staunch supporter of local farmers. Since she’s based in Baguio, her farm-to-table restaurant has gradually become a refuge for farmers in the region.

Harold said their collective effort began with the return of the in-person WOFEX in 2022, after it was paused during the pandemic.

“What started as an invitation for farmers’ groups to connect with potential clients at WOFEX has grown into a collaborative effort with various partners” such as the government, nonprofit organizations, and fellow entrepreneurs, he said.

Mama Lou’s commitment to sourcing local produce and supporting farmers highlights the restaurant’s dedication to community welfare and the satisfaction of its customers.

As David puts it, “This initiative is a win-win for everyone involved, from our customers to the farmers who grow these exceptional cherry tomatoes.” –

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Steph Arnaldo

If she’s not writing about food, she’s probably thinking about it. From advertising copywriter to freelance feature writer, Steph Arnaldo finally turned her part-time passion into a full-time career. She’s written about food, lifestyle, and wellness for Rappler since 2018.