To say the Filipinos love Italian food is an understatement. In every neighborhood, there is at least one Italian restaurant that everyone raves about. For those living or working in the Fort area, Caffe Puccini remains a top draw.
When the place first opened a few years ago, my family, like many others, used to dine there quite often during weekends. The restaurant had an enviable location in the Fort Strip, and it also boasted top-notch pizzas and pastas, reasonable prices, and a warm and cozy ambiance. If the rehabilitation of South Luzon Expressway didn’t happen, I’m sure I would have witnessed the restaurant’s evolution throughout the years. Thankfully the biggest change happened recently, as Puccini came under new management and along with it, the necessary alterations in the restaurant’s menu and interiors.
After several years of absence, the first thing I noticed when I walked in was the color of the walls. They had been lightened to a shade that owner and manager Mario Rossi laughingly describes as “salmon pink” (trust me, it’s prettier than it sounds) and the addition of twinkling chandeliers. The menu thankfully retained many of the old favorites, but also added a few new interesting dishes in the mix.
Although I am a fan of dark interiors, the brighter look of the Caffe Puccini still appealed to me because the place just radiates warmth. It’s classy, but not hoity-toity at all. During the afternoon I dined there with Bea and Trix, I could see why Rossi decided to lighten up the place. With the stifling summer heat outside, dining inside a dark restaurant wouldn’t appeal to too many people.
As soon as we settled into one of the restaurant’s booths, Rossi had Pizza Metro (P1,495) brought out. As the name so obviously states, the pizza is a meter long and is divided into four different flavors of your choice. We chose the classic Four Seasons, which featured artichokes (spring), prosciutto (winter), olives (autumn), and anchovies (summer).
Pizza Metro, Four Seasons
The pizza is huge and even with the thin, flaky, crust, is incredibly filling. No one wonders why this dish is a favorite with large groups. Pair it with a glass of Puccini’s light and refreshing Sangria (P195 – glass, P495 – pitcher) , and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a fun night!
I was very happy to see that my favorite Pizza Puccini (P495) was still around. Each time my family dined here, we never failed to order this dish. The pizza does not look like your typical pie, as it has bright arugula leaves spread on top and is drizzled with balsamic reduction. I typically like my pizzas simple, with no more than three or four toppings (that includes sauce and cheese), but I make exceptions for the likes of Pizza Puccini.
The salty, savory flavors of the prosciutto and Italian sausage, combined with the creaminess of the mozzarella, the spicy arugula, and the sweet balsamic vinegar ensured this dish a special place in the hearts of Caffe Puccini’s loyal patrons.
While the Pizza Puccini was awesome, the best part of the afternoon was undoubtedly the Fettuccine con Funghi e Olio di Tartufo (P395). This dish features home-made fettuccine, truffle oil, cream, and mushrooms. As the ingredients suggest, this dish is incredibly rich, so may want to share it with someone, however tempting it will be to eat all by yourself.
Fettuccine con Funghi e Olio di Tartufo
The new kid on the block (so new that it’s not part of the regular menu yet, but is featured as a special) is the Rosetti Puccini (P395). The dish is composed of several cannelloni roles stuffed with ricotta cheese, spinach, ham, and white cream sauce.
Because the meal was so heavy, dessert was light and sweet. We had three different flavors of Gelato (P95 per scoop): chocolate, cappuccino, and pistachio. A sizeable chunk of Tiramisu (P235) also made its way unto our table.
Italian desserts: Gelati and Tiramisu
The three of us ate well into the night and stayed longer to chat over coffee. At 9pm, customers were still coming in for dinner and many who had eaten lingered longer for dessert or drinks. Based on their happy, satisfied faces, or the fact that many of the tables were heavy with food and wine, Caffe Puccini is still a favorite among the Fort strip set—and will be, for a very long time.