Wednesday, April 16, 2014

To the Heart of Italian Cuisine

Hotel Celeste, the boutique hotel at the corner of San Lorenzo Drive and A. Arnaiz Avenue in Makati City, closed down its main dining outlet and opens a new restaurant run, along with the hotel’s whole fodd and beverages operations, by the Cravings group of restaurants.
The new restaurant, called Lucia, features select Italian dishes by chef Davide Lombardi, who is know his restaurant Lombardi’s Authentic Italian, which is part of the Cravings group.
“When the invitation came from the owners of Hotel Celeste (the mother-and-daughter tandem of Cely and Tricia Sarabia), I immediately thought that the dishes that should be served in a fabulous hotel like this should also exude the same elegance and flavor,” said Lombardi. 
“With Lucia, I want to share real Italian flavors,” her further said. “We do classic Italian dishes.”
            Lomabardi explained that  in northern Italy, the dishes are richer, with more butter and  cream, while in southern Italy, they are more Mediterranean and have olive oil, fruits, vegetables, seafood. He selects the best dishes among them to serve at the restaurant especially those he had exeprienced eating at hme.
“I grew up with my grandmother and mother. On weekends, the family comes together. We all help in the kitchen to prepare the food. Since I’m married to a Filipina, we also do the same in the province, in Mariveles, Bataan,” reveled Lombardi, who added that adobo is his favorite Filipino.
            The name of restaurant itself is a homage to the chef’s mother.
 “It is my mother’s name, Lucia, and this is my way of honoring and thanking her, for passing on to me the passion of cooking authentic Italian meals,” he explained. 

Chef Davide Lombardi
Lombardi doing a cooking demo
              The name complements the name of the hotel derived from the name of a woman and the founder, Cely Sarabia, mother of Tricia who is now at the helm of the hotel.
The semi-fine dining Lucia Ristorante has more meat offerings along with Italian favorites such as pizza and pasta. It also boasts of a wider range of premium Italian wines.
For starters, diners can choose from a sampling of cold (antipasti freddi) or hot (antipasti caldi) appetizers. Cold appetizers include carpaccio di manzo sedano e grana or beef carpaccio marinated with lemon and olive oil and fresh parmesan (P480); mozzarella di bufala ai tres pomodori or mozzarella bufala with theee tomatoes (P660); insalata mista or salad with cherry tomatoes, shallot and balsamic vinaigrette (P240); the antipasto all’Italiana or Italian ham with Italian vegetables (P780); and the carpaccio di salmone or salmon carpaccio marinated with lemon, olive oil served with dill and fennel bulb (P490).  
For the antipasti caldi, Lucia is offering two special selections: minestrone di verdure con pastina or hearty vegetable soup with fresh pasta (P220), and the parmigiana di melanzane or roasted eggplant with mozzarella cheese (P260).
            The pizza selections are limited but satisfactory. The menu includes the Napoletana pizza with tomato sauce, Mozzarella and fresh basil (P290); the quattro formaggi with Provolone, Fontina, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella cheeses (P490); the pizza ai salumi (P490) with tomato sauce and Italian hams; the quattro stagioni (P365) with ham, mushrooms and artichokes; and the prosciutto di parma, funghi (P385) with tomato sauce, prosciutto and mushroom.
            The pasta is made fresh here,a nd it is used in its five dishes—the ravioli di magro (P290),  Italian dumpling with ricotta cheese and spinach; the taglierini tartufati (P440), homemade taglierini with mushroom and black truffles; the lasagne della casa con crema de porcini (P320), lasagna with bolognese ragu and porcini sauce; the tagliatelle alla carbonara (P340), tagliatelle with pancetta and egg; and Lomabardi’s own creation for the restaurant, the Spaghetti Lucia (P590), a subtle spaghetti dish with seafood that includes clams, mussels, squid and giant prawns.  
A good selection of fish and meat dishes makes up Lucia’s entrees. The dentice alla pugliese (P460), roasted snapper with pancetta and broccoli; and the orata all’ ortolanala in crema al basilico (P440), roasted white fish with pesto cream sauce, are worth trying, but the stars of the menu are the meats—coscie di pollo tartufate in salsa ros, boneless chicken thigh stuffed with mushrooms with pomodoro dolce; the scallopine alla Milanese (P480), thinly sliced pork loin, breaded and served with fresh salad; tagliata di manzo (P1,200), thinly sliced beef tenderloin baked with olive oil and rosemary and served with caramel balsamic sauce; and the bistecca di manzo arrosto (P990), fillet of roasted beef with truffle sauce.
            If you still have room, they have a trio of dessert offerings—tiramisu (P210), the panacotta del Piemonte (P160), and the crostatina di frutta fresca (P260)—that puts an elegant finish to a filling meal.

Bistecca di manzo arrosto
Mozzarella di buffala ai 3 pomodori

Spaghetti Lucia
Taglierini tartufati
 Lucia Ristorante is at the Hotel Celeste at 2 San Lorenzo Drive corner A. Arnaiz Avenue, San Lorenzo Village, Makati City.  For more information, call 887-8080 or check the Facebook page at

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Candies for the Eye and Tongue: Matteo Guidicelli and Mentos Make Sweet Mix

Matteo Guidicelli is the first endorser of Mentos in the Philippines
At the recent launch of new candy flavors, Italian-Filipino actor and athlete Matteo Guidicelli, an eye candy himself, co-hosted the event, entertained the audience, sang and generally charmed the people. It was a testament on how he has grown from a shy boy of 14, fresh out of Cebu, when I first interviewed him 10 years ago at a kart racing track in Bonifacio Global City. He was sort of a celebrity then, making local karting history by winning two titles in a row —Karter of the Year of the Shell Superkarting Series held in Carmona, Cavite, and the champion at the Rotax Max Junior division. Guidicelli was also tapped as endorser and image model of Swatch, Penshoppe, Addict Mobile and Oakley.
Now, he has graduated from karting and is into triathlons. He eventually entered showbiz, appearing in television and doing a couple of movies. He developed an interest in acting and enrolled in an acting workshop at the New York Academy in Los Angeles. He took up musical theater at the Columbia College in Chicago. And these made him more endearing, an athlete with an interest in the arts. There are more to the 24-year-old celebrity and some of it are revealed as he become the first endorser of Mentos in the Philippines.
As the newly-minted ambassador of the candy of Perfetti Van Melle product, the European company that also produces Fruittella, Smint and Chupa Chups, Guidicelli stars in a three-part promotional mini-movie called “Mentos Strawberry Mix Thrillogy,” shown on television but mostly on social networks. The videos promote the new Mentos Strawberry Mix, three candy flavors are packed in one roll or bag — the sour strawberry, vanilla strawberry and classic strawberry. They also present three facets of Guidicelli, who stars in the videos together with two strawberry-headed sidekicks, the quirky Mentos Strawberry Hitmen.

Matteo Guidicelli as the action star

 The first video is called “The Thrill of the Chase” and presents Guidicelli as the action star. Embodying the sour strawberry flavor, the video puts Guidicelli in a video game world where he runs, swims and does stunts, harking to his athlete persona. Aside from being a racer and a triathlete in real life, he bikes, runs and generally committed to an active and healthy lifestyle. Guidicelli got his first taste of kart racing when he was 11 years old while vacationing in Italy, and was instantly hooked. He pursued it when he returned home in Cebu and eventually won many races. He was passionate about racing that he almost cried when he got in the seat of Marlon Stockinger’s racecar because he did not get to fulfill his dream of being the first Filipino Formula One racer. But he is now very much into triathlon. He revealed though he experienced a harrowing incident when he joined his first triathlon in 2011 in Cebu. He almost drowned out in the sea and thought he would die. He survived it and it did not stop him from pursuing triathlon.
Matteo Guidicelli as the Italian lover

For the sweet vanilla strawberry flavor, the second video, “The Thrill of Declaring Your Love,” depicts Guidicelli as the lover boy who, through ardent wooing, makes even the painting of Mona Lisa smile. Guidicelli succinctly put it that he is both Italian and Filipino, claimed to make passionate and romantic lovers. In the matters of romance though, he proves to be terse. People are talking about his relationship with singer Sarah Geronimo, but he remains reticent or vague about it. Defining love, he resorts to sports metaphors: Love is not a sprint but a marathon.

Matteo Guidicelli as the boy next door
The third video is “the real me,” Guidicelli said. “The Thrill of Being Real,” for the classic strawberry flavor, shows him as the boy next door, down-to-earth and generally uncomplicated, pursuing passions, having fun and relishing the joy of doing ordinary things. Even without the frills, Guidicelli still exudes with charisma and wholesome appeal.

The Strawberry Hitmen
A little phallic to me

For more of Guidicelli, watch the “Mentos Strawberry Mix Thrillogy” on