Italian restaurants have never been difficult to find. In almost every commercial center, you can spot an establishment dedicated to old and reliable dishes like pizza, pasta and sandwiches. Sometimes, the only way to tell the difference between authentic Italian and Italian-inspired is to check the menu for its prices—authenticity isn’t always easy on the budget, after all. This is why I feel very fortunate to have stumbled upon Esprimere Italian Deli, an establishment in the Ortigas area where authenticity and fair costs reach a compromise. Its prices are not just affordable for the work force; the dishes here may fall within the budget of a college student as well.
Location-wise alone, Esprimere can already guarantee itself a following among Ortigas locals. In the short time that it has been in the area, it has already become a choice dining area among the students of the University of Asia and the Pacific.
There is nothing overwhelming or pretentious about Esprimere. The welcoming, woodsy interior speaks volumes of its comforting atmosphere. Bottles of imported wine and photographs line the walls and shelves of the restaurant, giving its patrons a small taste of Italy as they wine and dine to their heart’s content. My favorite design element is a simple sign that hangs on one side of the large glass window; it is an Italian proverb that says, “At the table, you do not become old”. Doesn’t it have a nice ring to it?
Noelle Aujero, one of the co-owners, shared to me that Esprimere was born out of their love for travel—to Italy, especially—and their desire to bring Italy to the Filipinos at a no-fuss price. Thanks to their vast knowledge about Italy and its cuisine, they were able to develop the menu on their own as well as secure variants of authentic Italian wine to add to their patrons’ dining experience. They source some of their ingredients from Italy, but some are from local produce as well.
Fresh Orange Juice
Freshly Brewed Iced Tea
Like all dining features, we were invited to choose our drinks first. We had glasses of Fresh Orange Juice (P90) and Freshly Brewed Iced Tea (P55), which were both very appealing and refreshing. We started with the Roast Beef (P350) and the Roast Chicken (P240). Don’t let the prices fool you; these two dishes are pretty well worth their cost. Not only are they tasty, but they come with a salad (you can choose from anchovy, honey mustard and balsamic olive oil with capers as a dressing) and the best parmesan-sprinkled potato side dish I’ve tasted in awhile.
We had several pasta dishes; the first one served was the Penne Arrabiata (P175), a spicy, tomato-based dish guaranteed to perk your appetite. We also had the Gorgonzola (P250), a pasta dish that will definitely be a hit among cheese lovers due to that zesty, well-balanced flavor. However, the dish that became a big hit among my group of friends was the traditional Italian Carbonara (P250). In most cases, carbonara is easily dismissible because it seems like such an ordinary pasta dish that you can see in almost every menu. What is so special about Esprimere’s carbonara is that it is cooked with egg and pancetta; this gives it a smooth, light taste that will leave you pleasantly surprised and even craving for more.
The Panzanella (P50) broke the monotony of pasta dishes. This is a Florentine salad consisting of bread served with several vegetables (tomatoes, and sometimes, onions and other herbs) in olive oil and vinegar dressings. The reason for its availability as a side dish was actually the result of a customer request; they loved it so much that the restaurant decided to include it on the menu.
We were already getting full (it was a carb party), but somehow, we managed to make room for two of Esprimere’s delicious pizzas: the Bianco e Verde (P250) and the not-so-traditional Four Cheese (P320). It was my first time trying Bianco e Verde; if you Google it up to check the ingredients, you’ll find it rather fascinating. Its primary ingredients are cheese (parmesan, mozzarella, or both), ricotta (milk whey), and arugula leaves. I don’t think it’s a taste that many can appreciate (I know people who hate the taste of arugula), but it’s definitely a must-try if you want to give your tastebuds an adventure. The Four Cheese, on the other hand, is a dish that is easy to love. It’s a no-fuss pizza with four kinds of cheese—nothing fancy, but truly mouth-watering.
Bianco e Verde
What is so terrific about Esprimere is that they make quality affordable. As they are conveniently located near a school and some offices, patrons can surely expect delicious food made with the finest ingredients at fair prices. What more can you ask for?
Images by Rona Tanchico.