Food and Leisure

Spaghetti and silver linings

ARTMAGEDDON - Igan D’Bayan - The Philippine Star
Spaghetti and silver linings
Jean Paul Manuud, The Bistro Group president and COO, says “When you order pasta at Italianni’s, that is the only time we start dropping pasta into the pot of hot water. It is not precooked, not reheated. It takes time, yes, but — as we say, ‘Al dente… it’s worth the wait.’”

The Italianni’s branch that holds the most memories for Jean Paul Manuud, The Bistro Group president and COO, is the one in Greenbelt 2. “The connection is personal,” he says. “I was the first general manager of this branch. When it first opened, that was the restart of everything.”

Paul remembers that time when that particular part of Greenbelt was still under construction and only Italianni’s was nearing completion. The Ayala Corporation executives were having a walkthrough of the area and were looking for a place for lunch. “We were not yet operational at that point, but we informed them that — something we always do at Italianni’s — we will find a way.”

Dishes were prepared at Italianni’s Glorietta and were brought to Greenbelt. Servers were singing, smiling. The pasta and the pizza sizzled accordingly. It was a good day for Paul and the rest of the crew: the word grazie flitted back and forth inside the restaurant.

These days are hardly good (or even distinguishable), what with the ongoing pandemic. Many months of lockdown and uncertainty have left us gutted, glum, and wondering what damn day it is.

Thus, as Italianni’s marks its 25th year in the Philippines, there will be no celebratory fanfare for the brand. Instead, the Italian-American chain of restaurants will mark its silver year by giving back to customers who have patronized Italianni’s for a quarter of a century. All pizza variants are available at 50 percent off in all branches, all day long on Feb. 23 for dine-in and takeout orders. All-time favorite flavors such as Classico, Margherita, Quattro Carne, Truffle Mushroom, Quattro Staggioni, Pepperoni, Tropicale, Shrimp and Mushroom Anchovy, Garlic and Cheese, as well as Quattro Formaggi pizzas come at half the price.

“We will be giving our loyal guests some freshly baked Focaccia and Tuscan breads to bring home,” says Lisa Ronquillo-Along, The Bistro Group VP for marketing. “It is more of a subdued, subtle and simple celebration for Italianni’s, a way of thanking our customers.”

“They are the reason for our success,” adds Paul. “We have to make sure we deliver on the promise, the commitment we made to them 25 years ago.”

The first Italianni’s branch  opened on the corner of Dela Rosa and Legazpi Streets in 1996 (an offshoot of the successful establishment of the TGI Friday’s restaurant in Manila by The Bistro Group). “We were surprised at the customers’ reactions. Some were saying it was the most beautiful Italianni’s branch in the world,” informs Paul.

“You know, 25 years ago it wasn’t easy to run a complicated restaurant like Italianni’s in the Philippines — we were still importing Focaccia and Tuscan breads from the US because we couldn’t find the right ingredients in Manila. What we did was to introduce herbs and other flavors to expand the palates of Filipinos. And we were packed every night.”

The Bistro Group VP for operations Guia Abuel, who has been with the company for 25 years, remembers how the first branch resembled “an old house that served huge portions of food.” She says, “After that, we opened the Malate branch and so on.”

And after 25 years, menu items such as Spaghetti and Meatballs, Spinach Artichoke Formaggio, Seafood Cioppino, Sicilian Salad, Quattro Staggioni Pizza, Margherita Pizza, Tartuffo Cake and NY Cheesecake are still the top picks. In terms of interiors, the emblematic green-and-white palette has given way to a more contemporary touch. Still, Italianni’s has never ceased giving off that warm and casual atmosphere, resonating with its original credo of providing old-world Italian family recipes at affordable prices. The identity, the vibes are intact.

Ah, there is so much to look back on as well as look forward to when talking about Italianni’s.

“We currently have 19 stores operating,” says Lisa. Her go-to branch is the one in Bonifacio Global City with its new, distinctive design. “You can see the pizza oven, you can smell the pizza being cooked. The al fresco portion has been extended to the grassy area, so it is an ideal place to dine nowadays.”

Restaurants are sprouting left and right — some are flashes in the pan, some are chef-driven, some purely banking on trends — but with Italianni’s the philosophy is to be timeless and to be all-in for the long haul. “We have kept on outdoing ourselves, updating, progressing, and being relevant to the public,” concludes Paul. If you listened to the man talk lengthily and excitedly about how pasta is prepared the Italianni’s way and how a dining-table-size pizza is in the works, you would marvel at how the Paul and the rest of Italianni’s are grateful for the past 25 years and, at the same time, gearing up for the future with its cavalcade of dishes yet to be served.

And during these days of black clouds and dashed hopes, being able to partake of good food with our family is the silver lining.


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For information about Italiannis, its dishes and promos, follow the brand on Facebook and Instagram at italiannisph or visit http://italiannis.com.ph/.


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