Italian cuisine in Manila is nothing new, with restaurants popping up left and right boasting about their authentic pasta dishes. While there is nothing wrong with this, there are times when one would want to try something different. Enter: Cicchetti, a restaurant relatively new to the scene that offers a unique take on the Italian experience.
Here’s why there isn’t anything quite like it: first of all, it is located at a quiet side of Bonifacio Global City, away from its usual bustling crowd. Don’t expect to find any loud signs; simply look for the MDI Corporate Center and head up the eighth floor, where you will be led to a corner where Cicchetti is. The restaurant is intimate and cozy. And you can choose to dine inside with its chic industrial interiors as your backdrop, or grab a drink outside at their lounge, Mazzo, where there is an enviable view of the city skyline.
“Our owners are very well-traveled, and their trips to Italy were the number one inspiration for this place,” shares Migz David, the company’s VP for Growth and Development. Coming from the same group behind Belle and Dragon and Mandalay, one can only expect an impossibly stylish experience—from the ambiance to the sumptuous food and drinks. According to David, Cicchetti simply delivers great Italian taste with a twist.
“Cicchetti is actually an Italian word that means ‘small bite,’” starts David. “So, majority of our menu is about taking these small bites and designing them in a way that looks and tastes good. It elevates your experience from beginning to end.”
At the restaurant, there are two menus: their regular Cicchetti menu and their Mazzo menu. The former consists of dishes that might look familiar, but you will soon realize how they each bring something new to the table. Starters include their House-Made Burrata, a must-try for every first-timer as the combination of sweet, creamy cheese mingling with freshly made pesto and candy-like cherry tomatoes is on point. As is their take on the Prosciutto Insalata, a hearty green salad topped with generous portions of the aforementioned dry-cured ham and wedges of sweet Philippine mango. For pasta, a must-have is their signature Carbonara, which is one of the best in the city, made with just the right ratio of egg yolk, cheese and guanciale. For mains, there’s the Pollo alla Sostanza, a panfried chicken dish that manages to combine a crispy thin skin with moist meat.
These dishes are all prepared in their open kitchen where guests can see how their orders are meticulously put together before their very eyes. “One of the reasons we designed the kitchen to be this way is so that our guests can interact with the chef and learn about the dishes. These days, eating is no longer about stuffing your stomach. It’s about an entire journey,” says David.
Then there is their Mazzo menu, which is meant to be enjoyed at their al fresco lounge area with your favorite drink in hand. Crowd favorites include the Chicken Cacciatore and the Mozzarella Prosciutto Balls, which can both be shared with a group. “These dishes are basically elevated bar chow meant to be eaten in two or three bites, together with a drink,” says David.
Cicchetti’s cocktails showcase their inventive side, giving your favorite classics a modern twist. Anyone who is a fan of gin will fall in love with the refreshing Florence. It is made with tomato juice and campari. The playful Bitter Lie is also popular. Its blend of whisky, sherry, and Italian liqueur is reminiscent of the flavors of a Negroni. If you want something on the sweeter side, try their whisky-based Parma, which includes egg yolk, cream, and an unexpected touch of Parmesan cheese.
To put their drinks in the spotlight, they have different activities depending on the day of the week. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, for example, they promote cicchettis paired with their finest wines. Fridays are something else completely, as they throw a weekly party called Rosso. “From 9:00 PM onwards, guests dressed in red pour in and we get a DJ to set the mood. But what we’re really highlighting that day, aside from our regular cocktails, are our energy-inspired cocktails,” shares David excitedly. Basically, these are personalized cocktails that their talented bartenders create on the spot, depending on your mood. “Our bartenders ask you questions like, ‘What’s your favorite spirit?’ ‘What are you in the mood for?’ ‘How has your week been?’ And from there, they get the right flavor profile and create a drink that will match the energy you’re looking for,” he adds.
“Aside from showcasing the different things that we can do, we’re also trying to create more conversation,” says David as he takes a slightly wistful, yet still positive tone. “People are always on their phones when they’re out. Here, you can unwind with a lounge, all the lights, the view; We want to give them something to talk about.”