Friday, June 14, 2013

Lombardi's Authentic Italian at the Shangri-la Mall

I've had fantasies of going to Italy as part of a three-month Eat-Pray-Eat Some More vacation. I fondly remember my Italian Groupon counterpart ranting about how hard it is to do restaurant deals in that country - people almost never buy them. "Food in Italy is like religion," she said. "You can never compete against mama's cooking, even at 50% off!!"

My Italian vacay may not be coming to fruition just yet, but when Lombardi's Authentic Italian opened at Shangri-la Mall's New East Wing, I jumped at the chance to try real Italian food made by a real Italian chef.

Lombardi's isn't too hard to spot, with the welcoming big, red doors and natural wood finished interiors. The fluorescent red and green sign with the simple logo brings the place to life, and the innovative light fixtures are a great conversation starter while we wait for our food to arrive.

Chef Davide Lombardi (pronounced as Da-vee-dei Lom-bar-dee) was born and raised in Milan, Italy and is currently a chef instructor at the Center for Culinary Arts - Manila. The the food he serves represents the home-cooked meals his grandmother used to make in his family kitchen. He explained how, contrary to popular belief, authentic Italian cuisine isn't high-calorie or fattening, but how American-sized portions that overload on ingredients that usually come out of a can, make it so. Chef Davide uses only the freshest, at times seasonal, ingredients so his dishes stay true to that of his Milanese heritage.

Our authentic Italian dinner started with Mozzarella in Carrozza with Arribiata Sauce (P230) -  deliciously gooey Mozzarella is sandwiched in between slices of bread served with Arribiata sauce and a side salad. I'd pull off a piece and dip it into the Arribiata sauce, which had just the right amount of garlic and heat to it. This is definitely the way you want to go when starting your meal at Lombardi's, with one order good enough to split between two people.

The Carpaccio Di Manzo (P460) is a delicate beef carpaccio marinated with lemon juice and olive oil, then served with slivers of French Parmesan. The four slices of carpaccio are quite big, so between four people you more or less get two generous mouthfuls of beef.

The Quattro Formaggi (P420) makes use of Provolone, Fontina, Gorgonzola and Mozzarella cheese. The flavors compliment each other nicely, without one cheese overpowering the other. It's a nice, light pizza, something I'd nibble on while watching a Grey's Anatomy marathon at home. The only downside is that once it turns cold, it gets hard and cardboard-y - which is all the more reason to polish it off while its still hot!

What used to be the Roman shepard's favorite meal - climbing up craggy rocks to look for greener pastures carrying their bacon, making cheese along the way, and finding eggs when they were lucky - is now embraced by so many people around the world. See how not creamy and pea-free the Fettuccine Alla Carbonara (P340) is? The flavors of the egg, cheese, and panchetta shine through in this simple yet beautiful dish. Please don't ruin it by asking your server to make it creamier, you'll hurt Chef Davide's feelings.

The Pizza Al Salumi (P500) starts with a tomato sauce base with Mozzarella, Italian ham, prosciutto, Mortadella, Salame Milano and Coppa sprinkles on top. You'll notice how the toppings haven't been piled on and how everything smells, looks, and tastes very fresh. No frozen ingredients are used here, and just the right amount of meat, so you are forced to savor every bite, appreciating everything that came with putting the dish together, instead of frantically chowing down and totally missing out on the experience.

The Vegetariana (P310) comes with the same tomato and Mozzarella base, topped with slices of zucchini, eggplant, asparagus, bell pepper, and basil this time. It's a simple rustic pizza, with the cheese lending most of it's flavor. There are actually a lot of vegetarian dishes on Lombardi's menu, which is great if you have herbivores in the fambam.

My favorite pizza that evening was the Alla Siciliana (P310) - The tomato sauce and Mozzarella base is topped with anchovies, capers and black olives, giving the pizza a bit more flavor with the salty toppings. It's simple, straightforward, and tastes really good - that's all I ever want in a pizza.

We tried a few of the pastas, too. The first one to come through was Lombardi's Spaghetti Frutti Di Mare (P400) that had a mix of prawns, clams, mussels and squid in the classic Aglio e Olio. The flavors of the mussels and clams are absorbed by the olive oil and made this dish a delight to eat.

For those who crave a meatier pasta alternative, the Lasagne Della Casa (P310) is what you're looking for. Layers of stewed tomatoes and Bolognese are covered with a thick Bechamel sauce. This was creamy, meaty, and had just the right amount of acid from the tomatoes. Everything came together beautifully. This is definitely one of the highlights of my night.

The pastas at Lombardi's were just hitting it out of the park, in my opinion, at least. The Tagliatelle Amatriciana (P380) had a nice saucy attitude to it, with the stewed tomato, Italian panchetta, and basil. I realized that Italian cooking wasn't about the tomato sauce, the Parmesan, or the panchetta, but the freshness of the ingredients. The basil added that extra oomph to the dish, and because it was so fresh, it made its way through the rest of the pasta, infusing the sauce with its sweetness.

The star at Lombardi's is the Tagliata di Manzo (P1,200), slices of USDA-grade rib eye steak, baked with rosemary and drizzled with a bit of olive oil and balsamic with  mash on the side. I was already pretty full from all the pizza and pasta, so Jericho happily ate the lion's share of this dish. The beef was tender, done medium well, fragrant and beautiful in its natural juices. No gravy needed, just some good olive oil and a little bit of balsamic vinegar is enough.

We were treated to a few sample pasta dishes that were still in the works as well - a spicy arrabiatta penne pasta with olives, and a buttery fettucine pasta that was just amazeballs when paired with the steak!

For dessert, we had the Panna Cotta Del Piemonte (P160), a creamy Italian pudding with bits of vanilla beans that took the lowly dessert to a whole new level.

I was excited when I found out that they made their own gelato, hence the name Gelato Della Casa (Php 120). I was torn as to what flavor to choose from - Nocciola, Pistaccio, Fragola, Limoncello, Vaniglia, Mandarino, or Cicolato? Chef Davide settled my internal debate by ordering the Barca de Gelato, which was basically all of the flavors!

I thought I'd gravitate more towards the pistachio and hazelnut, but what blew me away was the very summery orange gelato. It was sweet and creamy, with a sour note at the end. This is definitely a must-try!

Mmm... Italian food. When it's good, it can make your eyes roll back in your head with sheer joy. When mucking around Edsa Shangri-la Mall and craving for real a Italian experience with the classic plating and impeccable service CCA is known for, make sure to give Lombardi's Authentic Italian a go.

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Images taken by Jericho San Miguel

Lombardi's Authentic Italian
+63 2 623 6901
4th Level, East Wing,
Shangri-la Plaza Mall
Shaw Blvd. corner EDSA
Open Daily: 11am - 10pm