BGC Corporate Center, 30th Street, Bonifacio Global City
Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
(SPOT.ph) Already something of an institution in Addition Hills, it seems like it’s about time that Francesco’s expands its horizons. Chef Francesco Rizzo is ready to take on a new crowd, something different from his usual gathering of family diners and large groups of friends at the Mabini branch of the restaurant. “We want to capture the crowd in [this] area,” he says, from the young, hip crowd to residents and working professionals in the Bonifacio Global City area.
One notable difference at their newly opened branch—barely two weeks open—is the serving portions, which are meant for one to two people. This was a deliberate decision for the chef, realizing that they would be catering to a different type of crowd in the BGC area. For example, the Pollo Alla Cacciatore (P480) is a traditional Italian chicken stew paired with fettuccine Alfredo. “It kind of reminds me of the Japanese noodle bowls,” Chef Francesco shares. “You have your noodles, you have your meat, you have your veggies. Of course, it’s still pure and authentic Italian.” Think of it as a set meal—great for a quick, filling lunch.
Some dishes have been tweaked from their original versions on Francesco Kitchen’s menu. Chef Francesco explains, “Our Ossobucco here is served with the risotto with saffron. We cook Italian rice with the saffron, so there’s a particularly different flavor, which honestly, I feel more confident to do here in BGC than in Mabini.” When asked why that is, he replies, “I see the diners in BGC are more open-minded. More adventurous. We already know the crowd in Mabini, right? So, here it’s totally different.”
If you’re looking to try new dishes, the Arancini ‘Nduja is a brand-new dish exclusive to the BGC branch, which will be available in early February. Picture a risotto rice ball made with ‘Nduja, a spicy sausage spread, that when combined with a mix of diced vegetables and creamy fontina cheese becomes a literal flavor bomb as the heat escapes from the deep-fried ball just as you bite into it—pure bliss, we tell you. You can expect more small plates similar to this as Chef Francesco continues to work on new dishes for this branch. “I’m working on small dishes for individual or two diners,” he tells us.
If you’re a regular diner, your old favorites are still available here, like the Le Polpette (P460), meatballs that are so soft but, surprisingly, don’t fall apart. The meatballs are made from a recipe that’s been passed down three generations, the original one coming from Chef Francesco’s grandmother. Then there’s the pizza—if you need a little refresher, their Tartufata Pizza ranked third in our list of Top 10 Cheese Pizzas in Manila. But the Francesco Pizza (P560) packs quite a punch in the first bite: zesty tomatoes, creamy and stretchy mozzarella, fresh sausage, earthy mushrooms, roasted bell peppers, and a nutty, sharp surprise in the form of gorgonzola bits. Everything is of course topped on their in-house pizza dough with a crust that’s neither too thick nor too thin.
For first-time visitors, Chef Francesco recommends the Polipo (P560), which is essentially grilled octopus. This dish may seem a little intimidating, but you don't have to worry about the texture at all—it's tender to the point of creaminess, bar the initial resistance on the surface. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the rich cauliflower puree, which comes drizzled with salmoriglio, a classic Italian dressing using olive oil, lemon, and herbs. We would order one and not even share with our companions. Another worthy starter is the Vitello Tonnato (P580), a tart plate of fresh greens surrounded by thinly-sliced veal poached in an aromatic broth.
The Fusilli (P480) may not be your first choice of pasta, but this rendition might convince you otherwise. A plump Roma tomato sourced from Australia is roasted in the oven with a sweet-sour mix of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, basil, and herbs. The skin is pierced and removed, the tomato crushed and turned into the sauce mixed with zucchini (barely sautéed so they still retain a crunch when served) and Parma ham for just the right amount of saltiness. It’s then topped with buffalo mozzarella, which adds creaminess to this light dish. The result is a bowl of the freshest spiral-shaped pasta you’ll ever try.
And what’s an Italian meal without some dolce? You have to try the Cannoli (P360), one that’s probably the best one you’ll find in Manila, Chef Francesco insists. “If you find a better cannolo than this, I will leave the country in 24 hours,” he confidently announces as we laugh, anticipating the famed dessert. Choose your side: one end is dipped in chocolate, the other in pistachio. Coated thinly with chocolate inside, the crunchy pastry cracks immediately at first bite, revealing the luscious ricotta cheese peppered with candied fruit. It’s neither cloying nor bland—like everything we’ve tasted so far, it’s just right. He also recommends the Marocchino (P160), a mix of espresso, milk froth, cocoa, and a dollop of Nutella swiped inside the coffee cup—a fitting end to an Italian feast.
The thing about Italian food is that, at its core, it looks like minimal effort for maximum impact—and Francesco’s demonstrates this well. But the truth is, it has to be very well-thought out. In that way it’s a little deceptive, but that's what effortless looks like. And given how much good we’ve reaped from the cuisine, we're happy for as long as we get to eat.
Photos by Hans Fausto