When one craves for pasta, pizza and even wine on the side, there's no doubt that the top of mind choice will always be Italianni's. And with a promise of great food, great wine and great company, despite being partial on Asian cuisine, I just can't say no when I got invited to check out their new offerings at the newly-renovated Italianni's in Gateway.
Even as a northie, I don't frequent the Cubao area, so I didn't have an expectation of the newly-renovated Italianni's at Gateway. However upon entering the restaurant, I was reminded of the cozy ambiance of their Trinoma branch -- bright, elegant and a little quaint. Heading to the second floor though, I noticed that the space has a dimmer lighting than most of their branches which made the place seem more intimate and laid back.
Upon checking Italianni's new menu, I was surprised that they were able to expand their already-wide list of Italian goodies. But of course, before we got to dig in on the new food items, we first enjoyed the traditional complimentary bread which can successfully whet and delight the appetite when dipped in rosemary olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
The New Dishes
After a simple yet satisfying start, it was finally time to get a taste of the new dishes at Italianni's. And to officially start off our dinner, we first sampled the new appetizer items.
Being a seafood lover, I just had to try the Crisp-Fried Shrimps Pescatore (P275), a serving of Fisherman’s style deep-fried shrimps with vinegar dip and garlic bread on the side. This seafood treat isn't only crispy and flavorful, but so addicting to munch as well as there's no need to peel off the shrimp from its shell. Let's all rejoice lazy foodies!
We also tried the Italian Pockets (P350), crisp-fried special dough with three kinds of fillings -- chicken & shrimp, mushroom & bacon, and tuna & spinach. All three flavors of these crispy pockets were savory and flavorful in their own right. However, my favorite would probably be the tuna and spinach, followed by the mushroom and bacon.
We were then served with an Alaskan Crab Dip (P395), a baked goodness of Alaskan crab, white wine, mozzarella cheese and cream served with pita and garlic bread. Although I'm generally not a fan of creamy dips, I really enjoyed this cheesy and crabby treat especially when eaten with the slightly crispy and interestingly chewy pita bread.
For pasta, we first tried the Shrimp Penne Mascarpone (P525), a creamy plate of penne pasta, zucchini slices and shrimp pieces tossed in a light cream sauce and then topped with mascarpone cheese. I may not be a big pasta fan, but this is so good! The al dente-cooked pasta and toppings were already a delight to eat. However, the mascarpone cheese had really taken this dish up a whole notch. Molto delizioso!
We also got to sample the Broccoli and Asparagus Ravioli (P450), a serving of paper-thin pasta filled with ricotta cheese, broccoli and asparagus. Although I personally liked this pasta dish, non-veggie fans might not be so pleased. The ravioli pieces may be swimming in a creamy sauce, but the pasta tastes strongly of broccoli and asparagus.
Another new item is the Caricato Pizza (P525), a mozzarella stuffed crust treat loaded with garlic sausages, chicken strips, bacon, bell peppers, Gorgonzola blue cheese, cranberries and mushrooms. The pizza toppings might be unusual for some, but I definitely dig the blend of savory, sweet and slightly bitter flavors in this Italian favorite.
We also had a taste of the Angus Steak Pizza (P575), a sure meat lover pleaser loaded with minced angus beef, green bell peppers, mozzarella cheese, caramelized onions and mushroom cream sauce over a chewy flat bread pizza. And although I loved the Caricato, this meaty goodness instantly became my favorite between the two as every bite was an explosion of succulent beef flavors with a hint of sweetness and tang.
If you think we were already through with the main course, then think again. After a pasta and pizza fest, we followed it up with a serving of T-bone (P1,750) -- grilled U.S. t-bone steak served with pepper sauce, mushroom risotto and seasonal vegetables. We had our steak cooked in medium doneness, and it was definitely a carnivore pleaser! Even without the pepper sauce, the meat was already very tender and oh-so-succulent. The mushroom risotto and veggies it came with were also very enjoyable. Simply delizioso!
Another carnivore pleaser is the Crispy Pork Ribs (P425), Italian spices-marinated pork ribs, deep fried and served with spicy scallion dip, garlic rice and seasonal vegetables. While I still prefer the t-bone, this crispy pork treat is as tender and as succulent. The meat literally falls off the bone, and can easily satisfy both portion-wise and flavor-wise.
The Old Favorites
The new dishes are definitely worth giving a shot. But of course, we didn't miss the chance to sample old-timers which never fail to make patrons visit back again and again.
I easily fell in love with the Stuffed Mushrooms (P450 Regular; P675 Abbondanza), a plate of oven-roasted mushroom caps stuffed with fresh spinach, herbs, Italian sausage and three Italian cheeses. As a mushroom lover, this definitely satisfied my craving as every bite gives off a smoky mushroom and savory sausage flavor with a bit of a tang.
We also had the Seafood Cioppino (P395 Lunch; P595 Regular; P895 Abbondanza), a serving of al dente-cooked spaghetti tossed in a red wine and basil pesto sauce, and topped with mussels, clams, shrimps and calamari. I might be bias for liking it, but this dish has three of my most favorite food items -- pasta, tangy sauce, and tons of seafood.
I also got a bite off the Grilled Salmon Oregano (P550 Lunch; P795 Regular), a beautiful plate of perfectly grilled salmon fillet served with potato wedges and sautéed vegetables on the side. Even if I prefer raw salmon, a la sashimi, I still enjoyed my forkful of the salmon fillet as I got to pick up the herby taste of this tender and moist grilled fish.
I also got to try a portion of the Seafood Risotto (P695), an ensemble of white wine-sautéed shrimps, salmon and calamari simmered in a special seafood-flavored Arborio rice. Although I don't usually enjoy risotto dishes, I definitely dig this plate of goodness. The seafood pieces were cooked perfectly, while the risotto was oh-so-flavorful.
The Desserts and Drinks
A nice and filling Italian meal should always be capped off with some lovely sweet treats especially ones from The Bistro Group restaurants. So for the night, we had a serving of the New York Cheesecake (P450) and the new Red Velvet Cheesecake (P395).
I know the prices for these cakes are pretty steep. But believe me, these slices are tall and big that they can already satisfy a group of four. As for their taste, the New York Cheesecake served on a bed of strawberry amaretto sauce is creamy with just the right amount of sourness. It also has a soft and smooth consistency which I love. On the other hand, the Red Velvet Cheesecake has layers of cream cheese frosting, white chocolate cheesecake, and red velvet cake with semi-sweet chocolate chips. Although I dig the cream cheese and red velvet layers, the white chocolate was too sweet for my palate.
For my beverage, I ordered the new Ginger Watermelon Shake (P140), a refreshing concoction oozing with cooling ginger and sweet watermelon flavors. I also had a cup of Peppermint Tea (P95) to both cleanse the palate and to help with digestion.
Our visit to the newly-renovated Italianni's in Gateway has truly given us an experience of great food, great ambiance and great service. Every dish we got to try, both the new ones and the old favorites, were of excellent quality and nothing short of The Bistro Group standards. The cozy decorated space also provided for a relaxing venue to our 3-hour long dinner. And of course, how can I forget our servers who were very friendly, prompt and courteous. So in the end, even with quite a hefty price tag, Italianni's is definitely worth visiting when you want to indulge in deliziosi della cucina italiana.
Ambiance - 4/5
Service - 4/5
Price - 2.5/5
Overall Value - 4/5
Italianni's Restaurant, Gateway Mall
G/F Gateway Mall, Aurora Blvd.,
Araneta Center, Cubao
Quezon City, Metro Manila