Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lombardi's -- It's All About Originality

One of Filipinos' favorite foreign cuisine would probably have to be Italian above anything else. After all, many of us are pizza and spaghetti lovers. This is further affirmed by the popularity of the two food items being offered in many dining establishments. 

What Pinoys don't know though, is that the "Italian cuisine" served in the Philippines is often different from the real thing. "They do not actually carry the flavors and scents of the original cuisines I grew up with," revealed Chef Davide Lombardi, who describes himself as an Italian chef with a Filipino heart. "These pizza and pasta places often serve American-style cooking. In fact, I was surprised to see that pepperoni pizza in a restaurant had sausages all over and not a single slice of bell pepper."

Chef Lombardi, who is also a culinary instructor, wants to share with everyone what authentic Italian taste and experience means. Born and raised in Milan, he told us that he practically grew up in their family's kitchen watching his mother prepare their food and helping his grandmother pick herbs and spices in the garden. This history led him to choose a career as a professional chef. He served in many famous restaurants in Italy before he went to Paris where he worked and stayed for 15 years.

It was in Paris when Chef Lombardi met his Filipina wife. They now have an 8-year-old daughter named Francesca. They visited the Philippines in 2009 and eventually settled here. What was supposed to be a year's stay became long-term. "What I like about the country is its climate. I wake up early in the morning and always see the sunlight on my window."

Chef Lombardi's expertise and experience in the kitchens brought him to the Center for Culinary Arts - Manila where he has been teaching a variety of courses since, including Italian cuisine. "Italian cooking is all about balance of ingredients. I always remind [my students] that they should always use the freshest ingredients," he described.

According to Chef Lombardi, contrary to popular notion, Italian cuisine is not high-calorie or fattening compared to American-style pizza and pasta that tend to overload on ingredients that are not always fresh. "Most establishments rely on frozen dough and sprinkle meat slices all over the pizza while the pasta they use is dry and often not cooked al dente. The white sauces are very heavy with cream and cheese, and usually with meat," he explained adding Italian pizza and pasta does not have to be meat-heavy.

When The Orange Place Hotel opened in San Juan, Lombardi's Pizza and Pasta was born. Here, the menu of the day is often written on the blackboard with chalk. "I do not serve a fixed menu because some ingredients are not easy to source. I only use good quality ingredients and fresh produce like vegetables. I use the best flour to make pizza and pasta dough," he illustrated. 

Thus, it was very rewarding when there are diners who recognize the original Italian flavor in his dishes. Once, an Italian couple who stayed at the hotel dined at Lombardi's and could not believe that Filipinos are serving Italian food with flavors that could be found only in authentic Italian restaurants. "They waited for me to arrive [from CCA] just to disprove their doubt," he recalled with a smile.

Now, fans of Chef Lombardi's cooking can also enjoy his dishes when a second branch of his restaurant opens at the Robinson's Magnolia Place at the end of this month. He pointed out that it will also serve the best, honest-to-goodness Italian cuisine from all the regions of his country. Lombardi's will also be serving more than pizza and pasta but other Italian classic dishes that will surely captivate the palates of Italian cuisine-loving Filipinos. 

For the freshest news and updates, please like Lombardi's Facebook page.

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