Saturday, August 19, 2006

Food & Wine Italian Style

I am a great fan of Italian food, always have been, well for as long as I can remember. I also have a great fondness for Italian wines with Bolo Bordalino Classico being up there with Brown Brothers Shiraz in my top wine stakes.

Back in the 70’s, whilst living in Melbourne, Australia, my regular dining haunt was the Neopolatano Restaurant in that Italian of Melbourne burb’s Carlton. On a weekly basis over a 2 year period I worked my way through their menu more than once and experienced the delights of their extensive wine cellar.

Whilst traveling around since then I have looked for its equal without a lot of success. I came close in New York at a small restaurant in Greenwich Village, the name of which escapes me at the moment, but not quite. Well dear reader I think my search has been rewarded here in down town Santiago Village if last night’s repast is anything to go by.

I had been intrigued by this restaurant for some time, I suspect that it was the bottles of wine in the window that caught my attention. So last night with the best beloved in tow I ventured inside Caffé Maestro to sample their wares.

There is very little about Caffé Maestro that is café orientated, it is a restaurant with fine dining in mind. From the cloth table cloths and napkins to the attentive service of the staff that hit just the right note in the delightfully cozy brick surroundings with original art works on the walls. The expectation created by this décor flowed over to the food which is very much in the Italian home cooking style.

First to arrive was a basket of warmed pita bread with the choice of pate, butter or finely diced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and garlic to nibble on whilst we perused the extensive menu. Pasta and pizza variations abounded along with a good selection of antipasti, a hand full of soups, meat and fish entrees, a couple of risotto and joy of joys a selection of fresh pasta.

It was from this latter selection that I chose the potato gnocchi with 4 cheese sauce which was definitely home made and one of the best gnocchi’s I have had and the sauce was perfection. My best beloved had the spaghetti with bacon, tuna, and porcini mushroom sauce which she found to be exceptionally tasty with the spaghetti being al dente to an agreeable firmness. For afters we had a tiramisu, which unfortunately had seen the inside of the chiller for too long and a panna cotta, a full cream custard with walnuts and caramel sauce which was to die for.

We washed this lot down with a bottle of Chianti Placido, which although a pleasant enough wine was in no way deserving of its price tag. A $AU65 wine it was not, even allowing for a restaurant mark up. The food prices at Caffé Maestro, with pastas in the 300 to 400 peso range and the meat and seafood dishes in the 600 to 700 peso range, are value for money. But the wine list is outrageously expensive especially if the wine we had is any indication. That being said we were advised that bringing one own’s wine is acceptable and with corkage at 300 pesos should definitely be considered.

We shall return and in the not too distant future to explore the Caffé Maestro’s menu further although it will be with one of our favourite wines tucked under one wing.


Lizza said...

You had me salivating there, Henry. :-D

I love Italian food (and Japanese). Where is Santiago Village?

Henry Bateman said...

They are in Reposo St (now called Nicanor Garcia) between Rizal ave & Kalayaan in Makati. There web site is but the prices are out of date, hey you get that. Just remember to bring your own plonk. I have this feeling in my water that next Friday will see us there again.