Eat and Drink Italian

Dr. Nestor Alonso II (The Freeman) - October 4, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Last month the theme “Eat and Drink Italian” was launched at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, to commemorate the 765th birthday of Italian explorer and merchant Marco Polo, who travelled throughout Asia (1271-1295) and left a detailed chronicle of his journey. Marco Polo Plaza Cebu is an affiliate of the Marco Polo Hotels, a hotel management company that embodies the key philosophies of Marco Polo.

GM Brian Connelly invited two Italian chefs from Sicily, Giuseppe Genco and Luca Genco, to team up with the hotel’s culinary team to prepare authentic Italian dishes at the El Viento Restaurant & Pool Bar. To complete the ambiance of “La Dolce Vita,” the Genco chefs imported red and white wines from Sicily.

The celebration began with the Pizza Slicing Welcome Ceremony with GM Brian and the Genco chefs cutting the huge Sicilian pizza. The El Viento’s wood-fired oven (wood from fallen mango trees) did an excellent job in cooking the pizza to perfection. In Sicily, almond wood is used since it produces a longstanding flame and a sweet nutty flavor while burning.

Mainline and online media, myself included, were invited to the celebration and we were all busy documenting all the dishes prepared all’Italiana.

The food display was a wonderland for pasta lovers with the following: Italian Sausage Cannelloni Pasta, Penne Pesto Genovese, Rigatoni Pasta with Ragu & Porcini Mushrooms, Farfelle Pasta with Mixed Seafood and the Spinach Ravioli & Tomato Sauce, my favorite that night. I wondered why the guest chefs did not make the pasta ala Norma, said to be typical of the Sicilian cuisine and made with macaroni, tomatoes, eggplant, cheese and basil.

I got preoccupied dissecting the nuances of the white wines, Montelimo Blanc, Brusìo Bianco White and Dionisio Catarratto. I tried pairing it with some of the pizza and, honestly, I had a difficulty in relating it to any previous wine-food pairings before. Take the Brusìo Bianco White (Sicilia), for instance, which is a blend of Carricante and Catarratto grape wines. I had never tasted any of these two grape varieties which are indigenous or planted primarily in Sicily.

I had the same difficulty with the red wines served like the Montelimo Rosso, Gabal Nero d’Avola Sicilia and Castelmedio. The Castelmedio is made with Nerello Mascalese, which is grown in the slopes of Mount Etna and I am not familiar with its aroma and flavor.

In the end, I decided to forget the food-wine pairing and stop thinking about studying wines because too much study, excuse me, gives me a headache. I sat down, ate a special roasted chicken, drunk wine and wondered whether there will be a Season 3 of “Marco Polo” on Netflix.

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