90 Scout. Dr. Lascano Street, Quezon City
Open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Tuesday to Friday), and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday)
(SPOT.ph) It was fate that Aaron Shiu and Sean Yuquimpo sat beside each other during the orientation for their first day in Enderun. The two became fast friends and stayed in touch throughout their university days and their internship in Michelin-starred restaurants around Europe and Asia.
After their thorough education and training in culinary arts, the two friends decided that they should have their own restaurant. It took them just a week to conceptualize. It was easy. When they asked each other the best food they’ve ever had, they had the same answer—Italian.
They named their restaurant La Spezia after a coastal town in Italy. La Spezia serves as a gateway to the World UNESCO Site, Cinque Terre, or the five towns in Western Italy often visited by tourists. Most adventurers and backpackers would dock at La Spezia before taking the inter-regional train into Cinque Terre. In the same manner, Aaron and Sean want their customers to see La Spezia as their introduction to authentic Italian cuisine.
“Filipinos are becoming food-savvy and they appreciate authenticity,” Sean said.
They explain that most Italian restaurants offer the same meals and others have over-innovated some Italian dishes. It has unfortunately come to the point that the Filipino palate no longer knows how Italian dishes are supposed to be. Diners have also been used to seeing the same items on Italian restaurants’ menus that they no longer want to explore or get to know the other things that Italian cuisine has to offer.
“We want to elevate their experience instead of going with the trend. We want to be the reason for people to look for better options,” Sean adds.
On October 25, they opened La Spezia. Their menu is very simple. It consists of Antipasti or Appetizers, then the Primi, “Prime” or the First Course, which is usually pasta. This is followed by the Secondi or the Second Course, which is usually a meat dish, capped off by the Dolci or Dessert. Most people would only order the usual pasta but Sean and Aaron suggest that guests should try to follow it with a second course, which is how Italians would order. It would give the customers a more genuine Italian dining experience, they said.
Their menu also has an extensive list of red wine, white wine, and hard drinks from places like Italy, France, USA, and Taiwan. Their servers are trained to answer guests’ questions on which drink goes with what dish. And while the dishes on their menu are all listed in Italian, both Sean and Aaron, who are almost always at the restaurant, are more than happy to be summoned to explain what goes into each dish. This is their way to evangelize their gospel of authentic Italian cuisine.
La Spezia sources their ingredients from different suppliers, chosen specifically for their quality. One of their direct suppliers is a fisherman from Palawan who delivers his catch straight to their doorstep. His catch like the Red Lapu-lapu is really fished out of the water and not farmed.
The restaurant is proud of the fact that they don’t use chicken powder, MSG, nor a microwave. Ingredients are ordered within the span of a few days to ensure freshness. They even have a mini herb garden within the premises which provides some of the herbs used for cooking.
Ensalata Di Polpo
For their Antipasti, an off-the-menu standout dish is the Ensalata Di Polpo (P320) a salad that stars a generous cut of octopus, quickly braised in herbs and white wine, then later pan-seared and deglazed with red wine. It comes with boiled potatoes drizzled with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, chili, and arugula.
Another appetizer which quickly became a bestseller is the Burrata (P450). The mozzarella di buffalo is accentuated with tomatoes and basil, then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Corn is also added, though it is usually not served with Burrata, but it serves its purpose to give the dish a hint of sweetness that goes well with the Burrata.
Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
For the Primi, they recommend the Spaghetti Alla Carbonara (P440) with a 63-degree Celsius Sous-vide Egg. Also included in this pasta is pancetta and parmigiana-reggiano that provides a sweeter and nuttier flavor compared to the usual parmesan used in carbonara.
A Primi dish they will be releasing this December is the Pasta C’Anciova (P340) a flavorful plate of anchovies, parsley, chili flakes, and a lot of extra virgin olive oil. This pasta becomes a medley different tastes such as sweetness from caramelized onions and saltiness from anchovies, along with the savory flavor of garlic, and even zest from the herbs.
Pollo Arosto Patata
For the Secondi, the crowd favorite is no doubt the Pollo Arosto Patata (P510). This dish takes two days to make since the chicken is marinated in fresh herbs for 12 hours. It is later cooked sous-vide for two hours, then pan-fried for the perfect finish. It is moist, juicy, and succulent.
Camicia Pear Gelato
For dessert, diners usually choose the Camicia Pear Gelato (P325), beautifully plated with poached pear and flambéed pear, Graham crust, vanilla ice cream, and balsamic syrup. The crescent-shaped pear slices are poached so it’s not too sweet, a good contrast to the browned and crispy bits of pear flambéed in rum. The graham crumbs and vanilla ice cream further sweetens the dessert, which is drizzled all over with a special balsamic sauce that ties all the flavors together.
A dining experience in La Spezia would definitely open your mind to endless possibilities for Italian cuisine. Aaron and Sean are also planning to spruce up their menu every quarter, which includes adding truffles to the selection in December. With its elegant simplicity, La Spezia may well become a good go-to for Italian north of Metro Manila, thanks to its dedication to authenticity.
Photos by Hans Fausto