Why, hello there, summer!
As the weather escalates from warm to burning hot, some of you might now be preparing for a Holy Week getaway. If you plan to just stay in town but would like a quick escape for any of the holy days, there’s good ol’ Tagaytay.
For those of you willing to brave the Tagaytay traffic, here’s some good news: I just found a charming new restaurant in the area, thanks to my old friend Jimmy Borromeo.
It’s not actually in Tagaytay but on the way there: in Silang, Cavite (make sure to take Carmona, not Sta. Rosa exit), within a new 20-hectare property called Monteluce that is owned and being developed by lawyer and contractor Mario “Babes” Oreta. You might know him as president and director of Alphaland Corp., which was behind the development of Balesin (he has actually retired as president but still sits on the boards of Alphaland and Balesin).
Trattoria Mario Mio is named after Atty. Oreta. I asked why. His quick-witted reply, complete with thick Italian accent, was, “In fact my full name is Mario Alessandro Stefano!” Riding on this, I asked him which part of Italy he hails from. He replied, “Malaboni!” (The Oretas are from Malabon).
While he makes guests laugh, restaurateur-partner Paolo Nesi is serious with their menu, bringing in ingredients from Italy such as braesola (aged, air-dried beef) and serving greens and herbs straight from Atty. Oreta’s lettuce garden just across the street so you cannot question the freshness.
Best of all, the L’Opera bite is there: tomato soup is given texture and added dimensions of flavor using parmesan and ricotta cheese; the bistecca, a thick slab of Angus rib-eye, is juicy and succulent; the signature ravioli uses duck and lies on a blanket of truffle cream sauce, a favorite of Atty. Babes and wife Babot.
It’s a throwback to basic fine dining, which honestly is becoming refreshing in this extended age of confused fusion menus. While Massimo Bottura is certainly one of the most popular chefs today with his artistry and advocacies, Italians will tell you they like to eat Italian food as their grandmothers would cook it.
And that’s what Nesi brings us back to: basic Italian cooking executed well. You can expect the classic tower of fresh mozzarella with slices of tomatoes and homemade basil pesto sauce; braesola with Philippine mangoes in place of the Eat Pray Love melons; and a variety of pizza. Hopefully by the time you visit, their brick oven will be ready, although they are already using the required type of flour approved for Neapolitan pizza. I also loved the seafood and zucchini dish: shrimp wrapped in sea bass wrapped in zucchini, served simply in olive oil. It’s a simple yet extremely enjoyable dish, best with a cool, crisp Pinot Grigio, especially in this summer weather.
Then make sure to leave room for dessert. This weather is perfect for their homemade gelato—the calamansi flavor is a must-try. The panna cotta is also recommended, a truly elegant dessert, more dense than commercial panna cottas, and served with balsamic vinegar, a honey and truffle oil sauce, and given texture with chopped walnuts.
There’s a gazebo outside so you can eat al fresco and enjoy the Tagaytay weather. A few meters away, there is a helipad in case you want to arrive via your chopper.
If that is how you roll, then you might as well bring your own wine. The restaurant has a respectable wine menu but the list as yet does not include the St. Emilions, Margauxs, Pauillacs or even the Bruno Giacosa Barolo worthy of a helicopter ride. Don’t worry, there is no corkage if you bring your own bottle.
Another option is to stay in one of the Monteluce condos, which I hear are available for short or overnight stays via Airbnb. Then you won’t have to worry about drinking and driving.
I took one last look at the resto as I walked to the parking lot before driving back to Manila, watching Atty. Oreta wave from the door. It really is a charming space. From the facade of yellow stucco walls and wooden shutters to the interiors of brick walls and wooden beams, a visit to this resto feels like a little escape to the countryside home of your Italian uncle Mario Mio Alessandro Stefano, the family favorite who plants lettuce and makes great homemade gelato.
Trattoria Mario Mio. Monteluce, Km 48 Aguinaldo Highway, Lalaan, Silang, Cavite. Take Carmona exit, go to Maguyam Road, turn left on Aguinaldo Highway and enter Monteluce. Call +63 917-166 7332 for inquiries and reservations. Wheelchair accessible. Dogs are welcome to dine al fresco.
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