To bring Italy and its cuisine closer to Filipinos is the main goal of Finestra, an Italian steakhouse in Solaire, where customers can enjoy authentic, mouth-watering Italian steaks straight from the oven.
Finestra first served food on the table in 2013, eventually becoming one of the best Italian restaurants in Metro Manila. Its lavish interior -- characterized by large chandeliers, elegant tables, and granite counters -- is in itself eye candy that says you're in for a great treat.
Finestra is one of Solaire's efforts to establish itself as the ultimate dining destination in the country, complete with a chef who has the broad vision and playful creativity needed for the job.
MEET THE ROCK STAR
Behind Finestra's white granite counter stands Alan Marchetti, a London-trained chef de cuisine who grew up in Rome, Italy. He joined the restaurant in November 2016.
Every night, Marchetti and his band of experienced cooks work at Finestra's open kitchen, performing culinary techniques one would only dare dream to try at home. Each evening, they torch sugar, season meat, chop greens, and plate culinary masterpieces right in front of guests.
Prior to working at Finestra, Marchetti worked in some of the finest restaurants in London and Hong Kong. This vast experience exposed his palate to different cultures, honing his taste, creativity, and craftsmanship.
But perhaps, Marchetti said, the biggest influence in his cooking is--and will always be--his colorful childhood in Italy, where he was exposed to some of the most remarkable culinary skills and flavors.
"I try not to go away from my roots," he quipped. "A lot of inspiration came from when I was young. A lot of things I prepare are what I like to eat as well, or what I've grown up eating."
Beyond skills, techniques, and a well-trained tongue, Marchetti emphasized that the chef's best-kept secret to cooking his specialty is the ingredient, the best ones.
"I never look at the price when I'm buying my products. I look at the quality. I really want to give you the flavors, the taste," he said, adding that almost 90 percent of their raw ingredients come from different countries, particularly Italy.
This includes the meat, pasta, and yes, even the oil.
In his kitchen, Marchetti works mostly with Filipino staff, whom he described as "very easy to work with." And since most of them have had experience working in international kitchens, the chef said they have the skills and "open mentality" he was looking for.
"They are also very eager to learn, and very curious," he quipped. "They come closer to you because they want to learn something about the dish, the product."
Despite working with Filipino staff, Marchetti said everything they serve is uniquely Italian. While he acknowledges that Italian cuisine is only known for pizza and pasta, he wants his Finestra to be more than that.
The "Italianity" of Finestra, he said, reflects in the way they prepare steaks, from dressing to cooking to serving, everything is done in the Italian way.
"Steaks in Italy are usually served during a celebration, and not really an everyday thing. That's why I want it to be the centerpiece of this restaurant. It has to be a celebration, in a way," he said.
FESTIVE HOLIDAYS TO COME
Marchetti said that much has changed in Finestra since it was rebranded from being an Italian restaurant to an Italian steakhouse.
The rebranding revolutionized their menu, putting more emphasis on steaks from prime international beef brands, such as the USDA Omaha Angus Beef, the Snake River Wagyu Beef, and the Australian Blackmore Wagyu Beef.
But apart from hiring the best staff and purchasing the highest quality ingredients, Manuel said the secret to their success is their world-class service, which earned the nods of culinary experts and expats.
There has been a remarkable increase of covers, especially when there are theater shows during the weekend.
This December, they are bringing in musical entertainment a la Il Divo, where there will be classical singers performing live before the grand piano.
They will also have set menus for Christmas and the New Year, as they expect customers to celebrate love, family, and success with no less than the best Italian steak in the country.
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