_mg_8090.jpgThere is no Bellini’s. There’s only this little establishment in the heart of Marikina Shoe Expo (Cubao X, as it is better known.) with two doors. These two doors form a wormhole from that quiet little spot in Cubao to an Italian house, that serve authentic Italian dishes, for a very reasonable price.

Having been established 8 years ago, Bellini’s has it good. The place is situated in a quiet area often overlooked by the busyness of most of Cubao’s streets, but once you find it, you’ll long for the warmth and the ambiance you find. You won’t want to come back — you’ll absolutely crave to come back.

Draped with red curtains, the tables having a bottle of wine and bathed in dim lights, it set the mood for the visit that indeed, I was in a place conducive for eating. To add to the authenticity of being in an Italian’s house, the owner, Roberto Bellini, works the room — armed with a warm smile and a friendly handshake, he starts conversations with the guests and asks, “is food u-ke?,” answered with an absolute “yes,” he moves on to the next table, leaving you with, “grazie, grazie.” (I bet he personally cooks some of the meals they serve in a cozy little kitchen where the magic happens.) The décor and the furniture look antique and the only breaks in the illusion are the constant swinging of the doors, as customers come in, giving you a glimpse of Cubao, the place you weren’t supposed to be in.

I ordered pasta made with sun-dried tomatoes and a small meat pizza, while my friend (and-soon-to-be-brand-manager-but-not-yet) had a ravioli dish with spinach. It was, bar none, the best pasta I’ve had in my life. The pizza, in it’s thin crust, even had a powdery bottom, (the flour it was made with?) making for a nice contrast of the strong tomato taste and the thin dough it was laid on. I suddenly lost the taste for dishes they pass off as “Italian.”

(There’s even a guy who sings and plays the guitar Wednesdays-to-Saturdays, although his playlist’s a bit hokey. “Mister Suave?” — come on!)

For dessert, we had some gelato. The Pharoah’s Delight is a nice mix of vanilla and milk, not being too sweet, but having the kick in the subtlety. The other one was chocolate, covered with what seemed to be cocoa sprinkles, vanilla on the inside and has a cherry core.

Just after the meal, the waiter gave us a shot of wine, which was just the perfect way to top the meal. It turns out, it was Don Roberto’s homemade wine, of which, you could get for 300 a bottle. (While the waiter was talking to us, I noticed Don Roberto cleaning up a table that just cleared — which was nice to see, him, personally taking care of his house.)

With pizzas and pasta plates ranging from 150 – 200 pesos each, there’s a lot less risk in trying something new every time you drop by. And for a pretty reasonable price, you get an authentic Italian cuisine experience.

All in all, my only gripe (without mentioning the chance of getting mugged or getting lost, or both, on the way there on foot, it’s not their fault) is, one: as the place gets packed, the waiters get a little too busy for everybody (but come on, tell me, which restaurant isn’t like that?) and two: the fact that I’m not there right now. Because it’s worth it. The long walk and the darker shady parts of Cubao to contend with become forgotten as soon as you smell the magic being made. As Mikko puts it, it’s “food you save up for.” I see it more as “food you work hard for.”

P.S. I’ll try the risotto and the panacotta next time.

The nice thing about the place being situated in Cubao X, (proclaimed as an art community) is the mish-mash of culture in the venue. Vintage Pop, the antique store just beside Bellini’s have a nice collection of rare antiques, while just beside it is Datelines, for your indie-book needs. (There’s also Sputnik, a comicbook store, of which I’ve still to visit for my copy of The Incredible Changebots.) There are galleries and various trinket and shoe stores (it is called Marikina Shoe Expo, after all) if you fancy a little after-dinner shoe-shopping. (of which we did)

Ten forks out of five.

(photo taken shamelessly from the Bellini’s page in the Cubao-X blog.


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