Sometimes, you just need some pasta.
And even though my parents both came over to the U.S. from Germany and I was raised in Connecticut, I actually know good Italian food when I see it (or bite it.) Connecticut actually has a huge (and very old-school) Italian-American population, and I grew up in the suburbs of New Haven, Ct, which is renowned for some of the best pizza in the world. In fact, New Haven’s Sally’s, Pepe’s, and Modern Pizza places are world famous, with lines literally around the block most evenings!
I also had my share of homemade Italian food, as many of my friends would invite me over. There, sitting in our wife-beater tank tops, gold chains dangling, we’d say grace in the presence of their plastic-covered couch and enjoy a meal prepared by their grandmother, or Nonna . Even though she was 80 lbs and 100-years old, she’d insist on cooking insanely good Italian food from scratch every day, including a huge cauldron of meatballs and sauce.
Later on, in high school and college, I could easily incite an all-out brawl among my Italian friends just by floating the question about who’s grandma made better food.
So, Italian is still my comfort food in many regards, even though I’m living in the Philippines . So when I was in Angeles City lately and arrived after a long car ride from Manila completely famished, I headed right to Al Bacio, which was only a block down from the EuroAsia Hotel.
The aesthetic definitely plays the part of a traditional Italian eatery, as it has black metal framed windows, window boxes with flowers, and a heavy wooden door. Inside, it was tightly packed yet warmly decorated, with dark wood ceiling beams, red and white linens on the tables, a collection of old-style copper cookware hanging on the wall, wine casks throughout, and some marginally done paintings of the landscapes in the old country (bad paintings of beautiful areas are a signature of real Italian restaurants!).
Since it was a late lunch for me, I got right to ordering. Of course, they have plenty of pizzas, and I can see that the ingredients and preparation were far better than the usual quality you get in the Philippines. The menu featured the usual Italian fare, too, like bruschetta , Cesar salad, arugula salad (very hard to find here), and more. But their homemade pastas are the real all-stars of their menu, with risotto, gnocchi, ravioli, and linguini made right on site.
I opted for the gnocchi, and while it was delicious in a buttery pesto sauce, I was a little disappointed that there were only about eight of them on the plate – not enough to satisfy my hunger and certainly a little shy considering the higher than usual prices. In fact, the typical dish on their menu ran about $7-9, which is nearly double what you get at another Italian restaurant there. Luckily, the food is twice as good, but it still would be nice to leave with a full tummy after eating Italian food.
Definitely, the little Italian grandmothers back home would have been disappointed in that aspect of Al Bacio, if nothing else.