This Italian Restaurant's Prosciutto-Wrapped Cheese Bomb Is Worth the Drive
Da Gianni whips up home-cooked Italian goodness.
Westgate Hub Alabang, Alabang, Muntinlupa City
Open daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
(SPOT.ph) Good Italian restaurants seem to always have a family-home vibe to them—perhaps it’s because Italians are big on sharing meals with large groups. Da Gianni has that same aura; it helps that they have a prime location at Westgate Alabang, near the front to let lots of natural light into the homey, cozy restaurant.
Their story also adds a lot to that vibe: Da Gianni is named after Gianni Guidicelli, the paternal grandfather of the family. “His passion was Italian food,” says business partner Pisha Abrillo. “When they moved to the Philippines, one of his greatest frustrations was that there was no readily available, good Italian food. So he wanted to open a restaurant, but it just never happened. And then he got ill and died three years ago.”
But the dream lives on with his children, headed by Gianluca Guidicelli, and grandchildren (among them, actor Matteo Guidicelli, who is also an active partner in the restaurant). First, the family opened a trattoria or open-air Italian canteen in Cebu. Then, seeing how well-received it was in the city, they decided to bring a more upscale version of the restaurant to Alabang.
Da Gianni in Manila has the spirit of Gianni Guidicelli in every corner of the space, from the posters of his favorite movies, photos of the family, to a portrait of him in his younger years painted on an accent wall in the private room. But his inspiration is most apparent in the menu of Italian favorites, with most ingredients shipped from Italy and almost everything made from scratch. “We don’t think of ourselves as an authentic Italian restaurant,” says Abrillo. “But we do cook and prepare Italian home-cooked dishes the traditional way. And it comes with a little more love and passion.”
For a traditional Italian meal, it is best to start with the antipasti—Da Gianni has options you won’t easily find in most Italian restaurants. The Formaggio Tomino (P380) uses soft tomino cheese, which makes it perfect for grilling as it turns extremely gooey. It’s also mild enough to complement the stronger, sharper notes of the prosciutto it comes wrapped in. Add peppery arugula and juicy cherry tomatoes and you have a starter to excite your palate.
Drop by Da Gianni on a busy lunch day—which, to be fair, is most days of the week—and you’re sure to find a Quattro Formaggi pizza (P520) at the center of each table. The flavorful blend of gorgonzola, pecorino, mozzarella, and provolone on a perfectly chewy-yet-sturdy crust is enough to make this a winner—but Da Gianni adds extremely generous dollops of truffle paste on each slice for that strong blast of rich, earthy flavor to make this extra indulgent.
The black summer truffle paste makes a reappearance in the Truffle Pappardelle (P450), the distinct truffle flavor made richer by the Parmigiano. But what’s even more impressive is the bite of the pasta, which lets you know not only that it’s house-made, but that it’s been cooked al-dente—something Abrillo admits a lot of their diners are resistant to. “They’re used to softer pasta,” she shares. “But we decided to stick to keeping our pasta al-dente. Gianni’s frustration was that he couldn’t find a good Italian restaurant in the Philippines, so we can’t give in.”
The pasta and pizza at Da Gianni are undoubtedly excellent but the Porchetta (P780) could easily steal the show. A wooden tray arrives on your table laden with roasted vegetables and a glistening pork roast that’s marinated in and stuffed with a secret blend of seven different herbs (though we do taste lots of rosemary!) then roasted for three to six hours to give it a crackling, succulent skin and fork-tender pork. Don’t forget to dip your roast in the barbecue sauce with subtle fruity notes.
One of the advantages of opening in a quiet part of Alabang is that the regulars seem to know each other and the team—it helps that the owners are very hands-on with their restaurant. “We’re hesitant about opening more branches,” says Abarillo. “Because we’re here every day.” With the comfy, laid-back vibe and honest-to-goodness Italian cooking, Da Gianni feels like an Italian home. We'd venture to say Grandpa Gianni would be proud.
Photos by Hans Fausto