When I was in high school, my friends and I liked hanging out at Il Ponticello (“the little bridge” in Italian) during weekends because it was the kind of place where faces were familiar but not overly so. ‘Ponti,’ as we fondly call it, was laid-back, well-kept and gave us a feeling of exclusivity since not a lot of people, then, knew where it was. Basically, you discover Ponti because a friend raved about their hardcore Azzurri cocktail or their steady ambiance or their new bar drinks. Ponti is a secret that is best shared to a friend or a favorite person. I guess that’s what exactly made this resto bar thrive even after ten years in the business and despite the coming and going of a lot of similarly-themed joints.
It has been months since I’ve last visited Il Ponticello, that’s why I was surprised to find out their interiors have been updated with new pieces and intimate booth-style seating. I liked the change instantly because it lent an understated elegance that is often amiss in other modern resto-bars. The floor has been divided to two sections—the bar and the restaurant. The former is more laidback and modern while the latter has a formal, Old World charm accentuated by a subdued color palette of midnight blue and browns. Interior designer Lisa Antonio had just returned from a trip to Italy when she recreated Ponti’s space, probably the reason why there was so much authenticity in her décor.
Ponti toasts to ten years and new flavors! opular for its traditional Italian cuisine and its signature cocktails, this “little bridge” through the years has been that place where everybody knows your name. Albert Besa and Patrick Santos talk about Il Ponticello and what it has to offer.
Something Old, Something New
As I studied the menu, a waiter brought a handful of tall breadsticks on a glass. Out of impulse, I took one and munched. I wasn’t expecting something as mundane as bread sticks to make sense, but they did.
Combined Gorgonzola Pizza and Al Quattro Formaggio Pizza (P630)
Guests have the option to combine two flavors in one crust, if variety spices up their dining. That’s what I did and opted for an overload of cheeses on my pizza. One bite and I knew why Ponti’s pizza is steeply-priced compared to the other pizza joints I’ve been used to. It’s simply flavorful but stripped off of unnecessary additives or artificial flavors. I watched how my pizza was made right in Ponti’s kitchen and it’s just dough, cheeses and porcini mushrooms—nothing more. It makes you wonder where all the very potent flavors come from. Then, it starts to make sense when I’m told that Chef Romeo, who lived in Italy for 19 years, only uses the freshest ingredients flown in from Europe. Now, that is authentic Italian dining.
Frutti Di Mare
Then, there are unforgettable flavors that linger, even when you’ve just been acquainted. I said hello to the Terrina Di Anitra Ruspante E Fichi Glassati (P470) for the first time and it was love at first bite. It isn’t just a fancy name for a duck dish. It’s a fancy name for a really wonderful duck dish, specifically, farm duck confit with mango chutney and balsamic vinegar.
Ciocolato Della Nonna
Ciocolato Della Nonna (P210) was moist and decadent but not too sweet. It was topped with chocolate ganache and paired with orange marmalade. It was such a blending of sweetness and sourness, with just the right kick of citrus.
The Ponti Drinking Spree
Of course, I cannot leave Ponti without drinking—especially, when Managing Director Patrick Santos kept on boasting about their new cocktails, saying it’s all innovative and groundbreaking.
There’s the Italian Flag, which is Ponti’s alternative way of drinking tequila. I was presented with three shot glasses—with red, clear and green liquids in them respectively, explaining its name.
As if those weren’t enough, I sipped on one of Ponti’s signature drinks—the icy blue Azzurri (P220). Patrick said it’s basically a lot of sugar mixed together with five deadly kinds of liquor. True enough, finish a glass and you’re good for the rest of the night. It’s a cheaper alternative but still does the work.
What Did I Do?
After a decade, I still couldn’t see anything I disliked about good old Ponti. It still is a destination for those very discriminating with their food and drink, but not uptight about letting their hair down and having fun. Ponti has been there since time immemorial and I’m glad it’s still going strong at a time when I already have purchasing power. I can’t help but wish that they continue to be around for another set of ten years, and another, and another, and another.