MANILA, Philippines — If Galileo, formidable Italian visionary, physicist, astronomer, mathematician and philosopher were alive today, he would probably feel right at home in this little piece of Italy named after him.
The original home of Galileo Enoteca can be found in Calbayog Street, in the middle of residential communities in Mandaluyong City. And precisely because it is not smack in the center of the commercial and financial districts, the Calbayog restaurant is imbued with a cozier, homier atmosphere. At any given time, Galileo could look out the window and almost see the Tuscan vineyards ripe with fruit and ready for the press.
And over a glass of red, he’d probably be laughing at some home-grown jokes with restaurateur Gaetano Vitrano, who envisioned the Enoteca to be a place of good food and good conversations.
Gaetano says: “I wanted Enoteca to be like the way it is in Italy, where people can share the same table and make new friends. Our mission is really to give affordable food and wines. People can come to Enoteca and drink very well and spend just right.”
Gaetano’s daughter, Vanessa, shares this vision, albeit hoping the trend would extend to the younger generation. She sees this happening at Galileo Enoteca’s newest incarnation at Eastwood in Libis, Quezon City. In partnership with Marcelino Florete Jr., one of Iloilo’s top businessmen who owns brands such as F&C Pawnshop & Jewelry, Estacio Uno Boracay Lifestyle Resorts, Dulcinea and Chalet Baguio, the Vitrano family opened this casual dining extension. Here, the scenes may not be reminiscent of Tuscany but rather, a more modern Milan. Any time now, a leather-jacketed Italian is bound to park his Vespa on the curb and saunter up to the second floor restaurant, just past the Spanish-sweetheart Dulcinea on the ground floor of City Walk.
Vanessa remarks: “I think Eastwood is a good place to promote wine because most of the businesses here (are) call centers and I would like to see more young people start drinking wine than beer. We don’t want to tell people to drink wine to get drunk; we want to educate them that wine is good when it’s complemented with this kind of food.”
Now, whether it be Calbayog’s Tuscan countryside or Eastwood’s Milan flair, the Enoteca’s food and wine are as equally mesmerizing. A sampler might start off with Formaggi and Salumi Misti (cold cuts and cheese platter), a comforting collage of familiar cheeses and hams. Then, move on to Spaghetti al Frutti Di Mare (Red or Olive oil based pasta with seafood: shrimps, squid, clams and mussels). Want some good flavorful carbos? Take the Penne con Funghi Porcini and Tartufo Bianco (Penne pasta with Mushroom and White Truffle Oil) and Risotto Milanese (Arborio rice, Saffron and Parmiggiano). The main dish of Cotoletta Alla Milanese (Chicken cutlet dredged in bread crumbs mix served with garden fresh salad and friend potatoes) can be filling without being sinful. A light and gentle Cabernet, found among the Enoteca’s collection of over a thousand bottles, weaved through the courses like a golden thread.
Galilea Enoteca serves other favorites that the 1,000 or so Italians residing in the Philippines, as well as other diners, can truly sink their teeth into: pizzas like Margherita (Pomodoro, Mozzarella and Basilico) and Quattro Formaggi (Pomodoro, Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmiggiano and Gorgonzola) share table space with Panfried Salmon (served with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette and buttered spinach). Classic desserts of Tiramisu, Panacotta and Gelato paired with Limoncello or Grappa conclude a hearty meal.
At the end of an afternoon of wining and dining, Gaetano leaves a parting shot: “Our cuisine is the pure cuisine, where the ingredients are very important. (And I think) the real authentic Italian restaurant should have the presence of a real Italian in it.”
Well, this Enoteca has at least one Italian in Gaetano; plus Vanessa and the rest of the Vitrano family. And, of course, don’t forget Galileo.