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Bringing Boracay to Manila’s Grilla |

Food and Leisure

Bringing Boracay to Manila’s Grilla

- Ylana Harel -
When entrepreneur Chito Guerrero proposed to his wife Lizzie, he went down on his knee and popped the question to her during a vacation to Boracay. It was the closest they could get to paradise. They both felt the magic in the air that attracts many city folk to the island paradise. On their promenades, they saw families enjoying themselves at barbecues, and couples sharing cocktails as they watched the sunset. That’s why when they returned to Metro Manila, they dreamed of bringing a little bit of Boracay home.

And that’s just what they did. With a little money borrowed from their parents, they opened their restaurant, Grilla, in Antipolo. Located along Sumulong Highway, the grill restaurant gave Antipolo residents a chance to enjoy the laidback atmosphere of Boracay and enjoy a variety of grills, from oysters and mussels to squid and pla-pla.

The choice of name was obvious: Apart from the menu of grills, they recognized the fun-loving nature of Filipino diners similar to gorillas. Hence, Grilla.

Their first Grilla opened on June 15, 1998. By the end of 1999, it was named by a leading newspaper as one of the 20 coolest places in town.

Not bad for the Guerreros. However, cooking is in their blood. Chito, Grilla’s marketing and sales officer, is the son of the successful restaurateur behind Cravings and C2, as well as the Center for Culinary Arts, Manila. Lizzie, who is in charge of the kitchen and restaurant operations, is Chito’s high school sweetheart.

The restaurant turned out to be hit. Families and whole barkadas came to enjoy its offering of grilled and sizzling dishes. Some of its popular orders include chicken and pork barbecue, grilled spareribs, stuffed grilled squid and grilled oysters. Its takes on the popular sisig – namely classic, tuna, squid, tofu, bangus, and chicken – were also favorites.

Aside from its selection of Pinoy grilled items, its international items are also crowd pleasers. Among must-tries are the grilled oysters, mixed seafood grill with yogurt-cilantro dressing, grilled spareribs with tomato-shrimp paste sauce, grilled tandoori chicken, chicken kebab with satay sauce, grilled Australian rib-eye steak, grilled pizza, and sushi, among others.

It also has mixed dish specials that are value-for-money meals for many. The Sisig Sampler offers a taste of its six sisig variants. The Three-Way Oyster serves baked oysters with toppings of aligue, cheese and cream, and tomato salsa. The Rumble in the Jungle 1 and 2 serve a platter of dishes. The P220 Rumble includes garlic mushrooms, quail eggs, french fries with ground beef and cheese, pork barbecue, and grilled mussels with garlic and cheese. The P240 Rumble serves calamares, spicy sausage trio, kesong puti sticks, pork satay, and barbecue chicken wings.

Just recently, Grill added new items to its menu. These include grilled oyster Rockefeller, grilled pizza, grilled chicken kebab, grilled smoked chicken, grilled pork chop with tropical sauce, sizzling mussels with coconut milk and cheese, kilawing bangus, kilawing pusit, crispy crablets, oriental salad with orange vinaigrette dressing, pickled eggplant salad, tuna sashimi salad, lechon baka, camaron rebosado, and tinapang pla-pla.

Some of the Chito and Lizzie’s innovative offerings are Grilla’s Bucket of Brews and Family Feasts. The Bucket of Brews serves a selection of eight beers in a bucket at a discounted price. The Family Feast offers three family-sized platters. The Barbecue Feast, priced at P495, combines chicken barbecue, inihaw na pla-pla, grilled spareribs with tomato-shrimp paste sauce, mustasa salad and java rice. The Filipino Feast, priced at P420, serves kare-kare, garlic-balsamic chicken and pork adobo, talong ensalada and steamed rice. The Grilla Platter, priced at P485, serves two pork barbecue sticks, two sticks of chicken tandoori, a stick of beef kebab, a stick of Grilla kebab and a stick of mixed seafood grill, served with green rice.

Since it first opened, Grilla has opened outlets in Libis, Quezon City, along Kalayaan Avenue in Makati City, and at The Promenade in Greenhills. With their success, the Guerreros hope to open a new Grilla franchise every year.

Asked what they found rewarding about the restaurant business, Chito answers, "When we opened Grilla in Antipolo, I wanted to open a restaurant where families could take their children to enjoy an affordable meal of delicious grilled food in an ambience that echoes the fun-loving, festive spirit of Boracay. The most rewarding part truly is the fact that I can employ more people each time we open a new branch, because not only are we contributing to the lives of the people who work at Grilla, we’re also affecting the lives of their families."

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