Sunday, January 20, 2008


3.5 out of 5 stars

You could almost miss La Grotta as you drive through Rufino St. A lot of the people that dine here are office folk, as word spreads through corporate circles. That’s why it’s usually full here during lunch hours. I even bumped into then-underbar associate lawyer-friends who ate there after work when Pao and I dropped by for dinner.

This entry has been pending since April of 2007, so please forgive me if I don’t recall all the details. One thing’s for sure, La Grotta is a good alternative if you want to feast on authentic Italian dishes at half the price of L’Opera or Mezzaluna. Gorge on veal, truffles and Parma ham without flinching when the bill arrives. Pastas or pizzas on average cost 300+, seafood entrees 500+ and choice cuts of meat around 600+. If you decide to get a pizza pasta combo, it’s definitely good for couple-sharing/four skinny girls. Also, some have mentioned that they don't like the interiors of the place, as if it's a mix of different styles without a cohesive theme. I personally find the place cozy, and the furniture is very comfortable, yet not too modern and new, much like a homey worn-in but well-maintained living room.

I (even more so Pao) get apprehensive when I see extensive menus. More often than not, it’s a sign of uncertainty that is masked by a great quantity of dishes, following the saying “jack of all trades, master of none.” This restaurant is an exception: even if their menu is a lengthy read (with spare time to add new dishes, on top of that), their meals are hearty, no-fuss delicious, and very Italian. Check out an updated menu at munchpunch.

When I researched on what to get in this place, a lot of writers/people/bloggers would mention the veal and truffle pasta, so I ordered the “Costoletta di Vitello --- Roasted rack of veal in red wine sauce” (870 PhP) as well as the “Tagliatelle di Tartufo Crudo --- Homemade flat pasta mixed with porcini and parma ham in truffle cream sauce” (350 PhP).

While we waited for our dishes, we munched on our free hot bread that came with butter, pate and olive oil in balsamic vinegar mixed with parmesan cheese. Very much like L’Opera, only that the latter had salsa and used a variety of bread like their flat foccacia. But hey, the bread’s your standard dinner roll which was very good anyway…and who complains when it’s free? ☺

I also ordered a 4 Seasons --- normally uneventful. But you know how it is when you base your impression of a place on one specific thing? Like for example, how you rate a hotel by looking at their bathroom? Or how you like a certain bar if they play your favorite song? Well, I like a restaurant if they mix a mean 4 Seasons. And for some odd reason, this fruit shake is indigenous to all restaurants in Manila, regardless of cuisine type…Painfully, I found out when I was a preteen that Four Seasons is mixed only in the Philippines. I think I was on a cruise off Florida with my family when I ordered it in such a confident way --- only to receive blank looks. I just mumbled some other drink I read off the list. Correct me, though, if I’m mistaken. I’m not really sure if other countries have this. But I’m digressing. Anyway, the whole point of the story is that La Grotta’s 4 Seasons is decent. Very fresh, and the fruits were just right-ripe. And that automatically lifts this resto several brownie points up in my eyes.

Up to this point, Pao had never tried truffles. Truffles are knobby little black tubers that grow underground several feet of dirt near certain kinds of tree roots with which they have a symbiotic relationship. Because they have stubbornly resisted efforts to be cultivated, there are never enough to go around, and gourmands or chefs would be willing to pay astronomical prices — upwards of 170,000 PhP/$30,000-40,000 a pound — to get a bit of the smelly subterranean fruits. The taste of truffles is indescribable, but if one was forced to, it would be musky, like fermented mushrooms. The best way of getting an idea of it without paying a hefty price would be through the use of truffle oil, such as is found in La Grotta’s Tagliatelle with truffle cream sauce.

When the pasta came, it was heaven for me! Not only is the truffle oil very distinctive, but the parma ham and porcini were sprinkled liberally throughout the dish. The sauce was very thick and creamy (and very fattening, I’m sure), and the sprinkling of parsley on top gave color to creamy color of the pasta. Pao didn’t appreciate the truffle flavor much, saying that even if it tasted different, it wouldn’t be something that he’d actively go look for :P haaaay!

Tagliatelle di Tartufo Crudo

And as much as people were raving about the veal, I honestly didn’t find it that great. Veal is meat made from calves less than 1 year old. The meat is often whitish, as the calves only drink cow’s milk for food. They start having that pink to reddish color once they start eating grass, and they start getting tougher once they become active and older. The veal I had was already reddish, and the meat wasn’t as tender. They probably tried covering up the meat with the wine sauce and gremolata on top.

Costoletta di Vitello

Well, that didn’t do it for me. I should have just probably ordered the appetizer that doc jeff got in his review (that he highly recommended), which was this:
Scallopo Del Ostrecche Forno

Baked fresh scallop and oyster topped w/ spinach and porcini

Nevertheless, La Grotta is still good. Service is on point, ambience is private and cozy, and food is flavorful. Though some dishes may be hit or miss, you don’t really mind it since the price is easy on your wallet. This is a must try for Italian food lovers. Enjoy!

Pao and I --- full and happy after a great meal

La Grotta Cucina Italiana

AETNA Bldg., V.A. Rufino (formerly Herrera St.),
Legaspi Village, Makati City
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 5:30 pm - 11:00 pm
Su, M, T, W, Th, F, Sa: 10:30 am - 2:30 pm

*no reservations necessary, unless you want a corner table.


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