Filipinos are such fans of Italian food, and whether you’re craving for a plate of seafood pasta or thin-crust pizza, there’s a place in Metro Manila to get that fix. Not all Italian restaurants are created equal, however, and their proliferation unsurprisingly doesn’t mean you’re getting top-notch quality every time. The general rule is that the more expensive the establishment, the more authentic the dishes.
Cibo is an exception. Margarita Fores is one of the Philippines’ most prolific and successful restaurateurs, and this restaurant serving terrific yet relatively affordable Italian fare is the most accessible restaurant in her stable. The chef/owner spent several years in Italy, and her connection to the country surfaces in the wide range of dishes, which are mostly made with sustainable ingredients.
Upon the insistence of my sister who has recently become a fan of the restaurant, I and my family find ourselves at Cibo’s branch in Robinson’s Magnolia one Sunday afternoon. And I find it apt, too, since I’m in the middle of my European movie marathon, with this year’s Cine Europa ongoing at the Shangri-La Mall.
There’s a sizable lunch crowd that testifies to the restaurant’s continued popularity even 16 years after it first opened. And as with my previous visits, the experience is overall great – excellent food, accommodating and really helpful staff, and a comfortable ambiance even if the restaurant itself is an open area in the middle of the mall.
When in Italy (or at least when we feel like in Italy), we do as the Italians do, so we start with an antipasti and order the Spinaci Zola. The blend of spinach and gorgonzola is a delightful companion for the heap of garlic bread toast and makes for a nice starter.
The pastas, which I think are all handmade, are fantastic across the board. The Spaghetti Al 34 is a good place to start when you’re daunted by the choices. It’s basically classic seafood pasta with spaghetti accompanied by smoked salmon, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, arugula, chili peppers. The Penne Al Telefono (penne with stewed tomato, mozzarella, white cheese, basil, and cream) is great as well.
From the lineup of pizzas, the staff recommends the Prosciutto di Parma, an oval thin-crust pie topped with tomato, mozzarella, parma ham, arugula, and Parmesan.
There are also, in this seeming perfection, a few not-so-highs. For instance, the Insalata Nizzarda – tuna salad with vinaigrette – doesn’t exactly make much of an impression other than the vegetables are fresh. Plus, it makes a good counter to the abundance of “bad” carbs.
Guilt-free (to the extent that they are cooked with olive oil) yet tasty meats, meanwhile, include the Tagliata di Manzo (roast beef tenderloin) prepared with Aglio (garlic) and Rosmarino (rosemary). No wonder my sister likes it here.