I’ve been looking for really really good Italian food in Manila for years without much luck (mostly either pretentious or Pinoy-esque). So when I discovered this little gem in a pocket of Pason Tamo ext., it was a complete surprise and joy! Casa Nostra (formerly La Grotta) serves homey Italian food straight out of Mamma’s kitchen. Unpretentious and cozy, they bake their own fabulous bread, make their own fresh pasta and don’t use the cheap kind of mozzarella (this says a lot). The bread is almost a meal in itself with 5 different types of bread served in your basket as you sit down…bread sticks, soft pretzels, soft home-made rolls and even slices of baguette and a pizza bread (similar to Naan). This came with tasty a trio of dips – chicken liver pate, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a tomato salsa. Already semi-stuffed from that, I was half expecting a buxom Mamma dressed in black to come out and shout at me to finish my gnocchi in truffle sauce (P290). But she didn’t have to because I polished it off easily – the light fluffy morsels just melted in my mouth and the truffle sauce (they are famous for this it turns out) was perfectly made – not with a nasty truffle oil, but fresh and with just the right mushroomy touch. The homemade ravioli (P330) stuffed with spinach was equally delicious, as was the minestrone (P175).
Hubby thought the pasta with seafood (P425) was fresh and flavourful, as was his starter of beef carpaccio (P365), sliced paper-thin and seasoned perfectly. The hefty ossobucco gremolata (P895), which had a lone bone marrow at it centerpiece, was decadently oozing creaminess over a bed of risotto. After heartily tucking in, our friend Mike declared ” …wow! Its worth coming down from Alabang just for that”.
Another thing I liked about this place was Joey Velardi, the restaurant’s owner and manager (Italian American, of course!) was there all evening, chatting and welcoming the customers like they were eating in his own home. When he came over to us, he mentioned a couple of things that were not on the menu – like a killer lobster pasta and a new dish he was trying out – cappelletti or Pope’s Hat shaped pasta Alfredo stuffed with ricotta Cheese and chopped chicken. Both were just delicious. And when we couldn’t decide what to have for dessert, he sent over a tasting plate with a selection of all the best sellers – all of which were to die for! The tartufo (P200) and pana cotta (P190 with two versions – one sugar free) were my personal favorites. Happily stuffed, we made plans to return for lunch soon (saw that they had some great value lunch specials), with the kids as there was a cute looking “Piatti Bambini” or kids menu -with nary a “sweet” spaghetti or nugget in sight. We also noticed that quite a number of people were taking boxes of pizza (Quattro Stagioni P435) away, something to definitely try next time.
Casa Nostra is the kind of restaurant that feels like it’s been there for years (it just reopened in June), friendly and warm, with truly comforting and authentic Italian cooking. It really is a taste of home in the madness of the city, one of the best restaurants in Manila I’ve ever tried.
Casa Nostra is open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturdays. Valet parking is free. You can also bring your own wine with no corkage fee.
Casa Nostra G/F Eco Plaza Building
2305 Pasong Tamo Ext.
Tel. (63 2) 403-9854 to 55