Toasted Ravioli

I’ve had the pleasure of growing up with the Italiannis experience ever since I was 11 years old – the first time I celebrated my birthday at their first branch in Makati.

After eating a myriad of pasta and desserts (that was the first time I tasted creme brulee), everyone at the table was stuffed.

I remember how my Dad almost fainted when he saw our tab, though – a whopping P11,000 for his 11-year-old daughter.

Since then, Italiannis has been a venue for special occasions because it is one of those restaurants where you can expect good food in hefty servings and a quiet, relaxed atmosphere that vaguely suggests you have to behave well.

I’ve celebrated about 9 birthdays there (5 of them my own), 2 graduations, a farewell party, a post-work celebratory dinner, and a binge lunch when my Mom was depressed and wanted to get cheered up by Portobello mushrooms.

Now, it’s taken on the status of high-class Italian carinderia. It’s gotten a rowdier crowd through the years – maybe because it’s always full (accessibility for the rich and middle class lang) – and their buffets at certain outlets serve shoddy food at times.

Anyway, for my brother’s birthday and graduation dinner with close friends and family, we chose Italiannis at Bonifacio High Street again. We were sandwiched between two long tables of rival soccer players from international schools.

Imagine having to eat and have decent conversation with your typhoon-affected relatives while hearing one Jakarta Dragon stuff an entire chicken breast into her mouth in one go and the giggling/ shouting that came with that.

First up, Sicilian Chicken Salad:

Sicilian Chicken Salad – about P300+

This is one of the restaurant’s best-sellers. It has mangoes, grapes, croutons, and some sort of ranch dressing. The secret, I think, is in the chilled greens. That makes it crisp and sweet when served. Personally, I prefer their Chicken Caesar Salad, with the Portobello mushrooms and parmesan cheese.

Chicken Poppers and Spaghetti Kiddie Meal – P220

My little brother says it was “good” but that the spaghetti was salty. Some days, the kiddie meals are free.

Toasted Ravioli – P275

Four pieces of breaded and fried cheese-filled raviolis with mozzarella cream, drizzled with pomodoro sauce and basil pesto. That sentence never fails to excite me in the 12 years I’ve been eating at Italianni’s. Whenever I get the chance, I order this, and it’s never failed me. You could say it’s too rich and fattening, plus slightly bland, but I love it anyway. Eat it while it’s hot because it softens easily.

Wild Mushroom Pizza – Free

Sort of bleh. But it’s good ’cause it’s free. One of our titos – Tito Manoling – knows the Filipino franchise owner of Italianni’s and called him up to ask if we could get freebies. So this was on the house. Plus, the staff wanted to make amends for last time, when they forgot to list down my Tita Fay’s order for breaded fish. She didn’t get to eat anything that night, and it put off Tito Manoling. The same concept applies to political favors.

Grilled Pork Chops Au Poivre – P425

All the males in the family seem to go for this, but I’ve never tried it. Does it look good to you?

Last but not the least is a special treat given to birthday celebrants at Italianni’s. On my 11th birthday, I got 3 scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with caramel syrup in a big bowl. Then they sang me a happy birthday. The next years it was either a slice of cake or my favorite desserts of all time: creme brulee and panna cotta. On my 19th birthday, an Italianni’s waiter at SM Megamall gave me a macho dance. It was strange.

My brother got this frozen New York Cheesecake with strawberry puree (on the house) and a rowdy song from the staff. It was a nice ending to a full meal.

No matter how it’s changed through the years, I’d still come back to this high-class Italian carinderia. Mangia bene, vivi felice!


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