Ar-rib-vederci Roma

- Ching M. Alano () - October 14, 2004 - 12:00am
Dining at Tony Roma’s is always a rib-tickling experience. Take, for instance, its Original Baby Back Ribs which, for more than 30 years now, have been luring taste buds around the world from Manila to North Miami, Florida where it all began, from Bangkok to Berlin. It’s the exact same baby back ribs – lean, meaty pork ribs cut from the choicest tenderloin so tender the meat practically falls off the bones – that the late Tony Roma served his guests when he opened his resto and fired up the dining scene with his flaming passion for good food. And it’s basted with the exact same secret barbecue sauce that chef David Smith concocted back in the ’70s, using Tony Roma’s special "seal-in-the-flavor" cooking process.

But what’s in the secret barbecue sauce?

"It’s a secret," says a beaming George Pua, who owns the Tony Roma’s franchise in the Philippines as well as Kwang Tong Cantonese Cuisine, both at Glorietta 4, Ayala Center, Makati City. "The secret to a great rib lies in the quality of the meat and the sauce."

It’s a secret that this trader-turned-restaurateur guards with his life. No matter how hard you grill George, you just couldn’t pry Tony Roma’s secret out of him. Oh, well, rib and let rib!

Certainly, Tony Roma’s Famous for Ribs has ribbed, er, lived up to its name. Love ’em and rib ’em: Aside from its world-famous baby backs, considered the filet mignon of ribs, some of the world’s rib lovers have been enjoying Tony Roma’s St. Louis Style Ribs – thick, juicy, meaty cuts of sparerib served with any of the house’s famous signature sauces. There’s Blue Ridge Smokies bursting with the smokey sweetness of real molasses and a spicy aftertaste that lingers in the mouth. A hot favorite is Tony Roma’s Red Hots that sets your tongue aflame with its zesty blend of chili pepper, black pepper, crushed red peppers, smoked ripe jalapeños and Tabasco sauce. Now you know where the fire is. And then there’s Carolina Honeys, a mellow blend of real honey and molasses. Perfect for people who like something that’s a little on the sweeter side.

And here’s the beef: Southern Smokey Beef Ribs, thick and real meaty short beef ribs basted in Tony Roma’s original barbecue sauce, smoked and chargrilled to perfection. It comes in a four-rib portion at P595 and six-rib portion at P775.

The invitation to this Roma (food) holiday is something even budgetarians will find hard to pass up. Tony Roma’s has come up with steak combos to suit assorted taste buds and budgets. The choices include such mouthwatering offerings (think 6 oz.-thick juicy steaks) as Steak and Rib Combo, P775; Steak and Grilled Shrimp Combo, P695; Steak and Fried Shrimp Combo, P750; Steak and Salmon Combo, P750; Steak and BBQ Chicken Combo, P635. Each combo comes with coleslaw and a choice of baked potato, fries, corn on the cob, ranch-style beans or rice.

All this in addition to good, old combo grill thrills like Barbecued Chicken & Rib Combo (one-quarter barbecued chicken served with a choice of ribs), P590; Grilled Shrimp & Rib Combo (grilled shrimps with bell peppers and red onions served with a choice of ribs), P725; Fried Shrimp & Rib Combo (large, tender fried shrimps served with a choice of ribs), P745; The Roma Feast (slow-cooked Carolina Honeys ribs, barbecued chicken, the house’s special sausage, corn on the cob and coleslaw served family style), P1,195; and The Family Feast (St. Louis-style ribs, fried shrimps and barbecued chicken, corn on the cob and coleslaw), P1,325.

George Pua recalls that not too long ago, Tony Roma’s had an eat-all-you-can ribs promo. "Our place was fully packed. Dinumog kami! There was somebody who broke the record by consuming 50 bones. A full slab of rib has from 10 to 14 bones; a regular slab about nine bones; and a half slab, about six bones. And yes, he ate all those 50 bones with all the sidings that came with the ribs: Coleslaw and a choice of baked potato, french fries, baked beans, corn on the cob or mashed potatoes.

"About 80 percent of our ingredients are imported because nobody can supply us with the quantity, special cuts and specifications that we require," says George. "So we have no choice but to import. And we’re really hit by the peso devaluation, but we try to maintain our prices as much as possible. We’ve increased our prices a little bit, but they’re still affordable. And we haven’t decreased our serving portions because they’re standard worldwide. When you dine at Tony Roma’s, you get the same full or half slab anywhere you go."

Long rib Tony Roma’s! Tony Roma’s celebrates its eighth anniversary this month with four new treats guaranteed to find their way into the hearts of Tony Roma’s legion of loyal patrons. Those who love chicken will love Tony Roma’s Parmesan Cream Chicken, P375; Caribbean Chicken Skewer, P375; Chicken Quesadilla, P295; and Creamed Chicken with Rice, P195.

Of course, through the years, chicken hounds have been frequenting Tony Roma’s for its Southwestern Chicken (8 oz. charbroiled marinated chicken breast covered in Tony Roma’s original barbecue sauce, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese, freshly diced tomatoes and green onions), P465; barbecued chicken (tender, juicy chicken glazed with Tony Roma’s original sauce), P395; and marinated boneless breast of chicken (tender chicken breast lightly marinated in teriyaki sauce and grilled), P355.

Famous for its ribs, Tony Roma’s is not just a place for ribs. Its got salads, too. Our favorite is the house salad, P285, that comes with garden green fresh lettuce, tomato wedges, cucumbers, bell peppers, mushrooms and cheddar cheese. You’ll go nuts over the Thai peanut salad, P395, that’s a mix of romaine lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers tossed with a spicy peanut dressing and topped with strips of grilled chicken breast. (You can ask the kitchen to take out the chicken meat if you’re vegetarian). For something crunchy and munchy, try the Santa Fe Salad, P395, a tortilla shell filled with mixed garden greens, cheddar cheese, bacon and fresh tomatoes and topped with juicy, crispy chicken breast.

And don’t forget the onion loaf, that’s listed at the top of Tony Roma’s long menu as a starter. Tony Roma’s onion loaf consists of giant (and they mean giant!) hand-cut Spanish onions breaded, deep fried, stacked in a loaf and served with Roma’s original sauce.

As a sweet finale to your Roma’s feast, try the skillet cookie sundae (a rich chocolate brownie baked in a cast iron skillet, topped with vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce) or the apple crisp (tangy Jonathan apples baked with yummy crumb topping and covered in vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce) or Tony Roma’s rich and creamy cheesecake. Such sweet indulgence!

Yes, when in Roma, eat as Roma’s regulars do.
* * *
Tony Roma’s is located at the entrance of Glorietta 4, Ayala Center, Makati City with tel. no. 757-1926.
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