Boracay has been teasingly described as "Manila... only with less clothing" when it hits its peak months. Expect the little island to be swarmed by both Filipinos and foreigners alike, all eager to party it up by the sand, later on coming home all golden and tanned, with so many colorful stories and photos to share. If Boracay to many is where they can frolic their latest swimwear (and hard-earned toned bodies), Boracay to me is an exciting food hub, a melting pot of different exciting cuisines which I can partake amidst the most spectacular sunsets, while enjoying powdery white sand between my toes. Whenever I plan to visit the island, my food itinerary is instant priority.
If Italian fare is what you seek in-between your skim-boarding, tanning, and happy hour sessions, everyone is quick to first recommend Aria Cucina Italiana, an authentic Italian restaurant located by the beachfront of D'mall in Station Two. Some regular Boracay travelers swear by their pizzas, some by their pastas (some, both). Aria opened last 2003, and will turn eight years old in April, and throughout the years has been the most sought-after Italian resto in Boracay. A charming Italian chef is at its helm to dish out their specialties, using woodfire ovens to bake pizzas, and the freshest, finest ingredients possible to orchestrate a symphony of authentic flavors.
Of Singing Flavor and Savor
Last February, I was able to dine again at Aria during a weekend trip to Boracay with several of my girl friends. The following month, I found myself dining at the restaurant again; this time around, with my cousins for a late lunch. It was day one of our family getaway, and already we had foodtripping in our mind. And who can say no to the opportunity to meet Chef Gino Amodio?
Gran Misto Aria
We begin our feast with antipasti, Gran Misto Aria (P435), a platter of beautifully plated appetizer, Italian colors of red and green dominating the garden medley. It boasts of a chorus of flavors and textures that you will hardly realize it is a vegetarian appetizer. The rows of tomatoes and cheese sprinkled with herbs delighted my tasebuds with its light flavors. Moving on to the eggplant mash, the appetizer sings a different tune -- soft and tangy, with flavors lingering on the palate. Have a forkful of the fried zucchini for some playful crunch and sour notes. Finish it off smoothly with the grilled bell peppers, with textures so soft, accompanied with a little zesty-sweet kick.
Insalata di Cocomero, Rucola e Pinoly
With an impressive start, I was eager to savor even more of Aria's vegetarian items. I was happy to be introduced to Insalata di Cocomero, Rucola e Pinoly (P480). It made use of my favorite salad greens (arugula -- organic arugula to be specific). With its combination of watermelon chunks, a confetti of pine nuts, and a drizzling of balsamic vinegar, my palate registered the insalata as "summer in a salad." If you crave for summer food that is refreshing, a little tangy, and delightfully juicy, then this salad will compliment your hot afternoons.
Fettuccine Nere in Crema Di Mare
We sample a homemade pasta, the Fettuccine Nere in Crema Di Mare (P475). Again, this dish is wonderfully plated with its bright contrasting colors of green, orange, and black. The creamy seafood sauce has just the right consistency -- not too thick, not watery-thin. What stands out is the meaty prawn sitting atop the black tangles of pasta -- it was so thick and scrumptious!
A big grin was plastered on my face when a familiar pasta dish was set on our wooden table by the beachfront. Well, hello there, my beloved truffle pasta! We meet again.
Tagliatelle Con Tartufo, Asparagi e Prosciutto di Parma
My first kiss with the Tagliatelle Con Tartufo, Asparagi e Prosciutto di Parma (P460) was fortunately just as good as my second helpings that afternoon. I love the rich scent and flavor of truffle, in all its pungent, saliva-inducing glory. At Aria, their truffle pasta boasts of homemage tagliatelle, white truffle, asparagus and parma ham. The plating may look simplistic compared to the previous appetizer, but do slice the ham and veggies into smaller pieces, and mix in everything with your fork and knife. Twirl a good sized serving with your fork, and eat. The delicate mix of the ham's saltiness, the asparagus crunch, and the luscious truffle will tell you that yes, your money is definitely getting its worth at Aria. Now, try not to act selfish, and share the dish with the rest.
If you are headed to Boracay with a big group of friends or family, I recommend for you to try their Mezzometro di Pizza (P1,100), so that you instantly sample three of Aria's pizza flavors in a meter-long, woodfire oven-baked pizza. This can comfortably feed 6-8 persons, depending on how hard the hunger pang has hit you. The regular thin crust round pizzas can serve 2-3 persons, and are priced as low as P380 (Marinara Pizza) and as high as P590 (Salmone e Pesto).
Mezzometro di Pizza
We were able to try out three flavors: Aria (P550), Quattro Formagi (P525), and Capricciosa (P580). If this were a contest, the Aria wins Miss Congeniality, as it's so easy to favor the flavors of the classic combination of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and parma ham. Capriciosa bags the Miss Photogenic award, and is recognized as Best in Texture, with its irresistible mix of tomatoes, artichokes, farmers ham, mushrooms, kalamata olives, and mozzarella cheese. Lastly, Quattro Formagi, in its simplistic, unassuming presentation, will go on to quietly win Jury's Choice, proving that a humble mix of four different cheeses -- pecorino, feta, parmesan and mozzarella -- can impress the most discerning of palates.
Aria, Capricciosa, Quattro Formagi
The Italian feast at Aria doesn't end with the pizza and pasta -- for us, we ended our lunch on a sweet note with a bevy of beautiful gelato creations. Just beside Aria Cucina Italiana is the Aria Gelato kiosk, where you can order scoops (1 Scoop - P90, 2 Scoops - P160, 3 Scoops - P220) in cups or in cones to tote around while you go shopping at D'mall. Want to bring gelato back to your resort or hotel? They also have Gelato To Go in tubs (500 grams - P550, 750 grams - P850, 1000 grams - P1,100).
If you are dining at Aria, you can partake of their premium homemade gelato with their Chef's Creations line. For those seeking comfort in a classic, they have Banana Split (P280) with three scoops of gelato (your choice of flavors). We had fun deconstructing and attacking the Aria Gelato Tartufo Deluxe (P240), where your gelato of choice (we ordered pistachio) is shaped into a short canister, coated with chocolate and almonds, and topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. Another unique gelato in presentation is the Gelato Spaghetti (P200), gelato in spaghetti form, all soft and noodley, drizzled with berry syrup. Eat this quick, as it melts fast!
Aria Gelato Tartufo Deluxe
If this Italian restaurant could sing, it would take center stage in an opera, taking us to a story of how people have fallen in love with the island, its warm smiles and gastronomic temptations. It would sing about its colorful flavors, and how we will always make or find a reason to whisk ourselves back to Boracay. The beach and food always beckon!