MANILA, Philippines – “Friends and wine are best aged.”
That’s the quote that greets the customers of Gambino, the second Italian restaurant concept of actor-turned-entrepreneur Marvin Agustin. Two months after its soft opening, Gambino was formally launched on Tuesday, February 12.
Located at the ground level of Forbestown Burgos Circle in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, the “modern Italian” restaurant boasts of Old and New World wines on top of its freshly made pizza, pasta and other dishes.
Agustin said Gambino’s menu was conceptualized entirely by the restaurant’s Italian chef, Chef Giorgio Bucciarelli, making it completely different from his other restaurant, the Italian-American joint Marciano’s at Greenbelt 3 in Makati.
“It’s more on the authentic side,” Agustin told a small group of food writers during the launch of Gambino on Tuesday. “Mas playful ang menu namin sa Marciano’s because when we started, it’s really Italian-American. This one is traditional with a modern twist.”
Gambino is a breath of fresh air from the mostly fusion restaurants put up by Agustin and his partners such as John and Yoko, Johnny Chow and Sumo Sam. But it still had the “modern” element in the dishes, courtesy of Chef Cristine Nicole Nicolas, to attract the younger crowd.
Agustin also occasionally gives suggestions on how to tweak some of the dishes.
“Our Italian chef, Chef Giorgio (Bucciarelli), he has a good relationship with a lot of Italian suppliers. Medyo meticulous siya sa mga ingredients. Sometimes parang kami, ‘Chef Giorgio, pwede namang ibang ano.’ Sasabihin niya, ‘no, we have to use this.’ So I’m like, ‘okay, you’re the chef,’” he said, laughing.
“It’s really Chef Giorgio and Crispy (Nicolas). But I would have, you know, suggestions – I would say ‘tone this down a bit,’ or ‘put some more cheese.’ When I eat, I eat and think like the customer. I don’t approve something just because I like it as an owner. Whenever I eat here, I’d say ‘my guest would like this.’ Doon ako lagi sa position na ‘yun,” he added.
Gambino, named after the Sicilian “boss of the bosses” in the Mafia, offers a small selection of appetizers, salad, soup, pasta, risotto, main course, pizza and dessert.
The menu was kept small so they can concentrate on faster service and good quality dishes, said Agustin.
“Our ravioli’s very good, the Osso Bucco Ravioli…Soon, we’ll be launching the dry aged rib eye. I think this weekend, we’ll be able to launch it,” he said.
The meal during the launch started with a bowl of Crema di Zucca, or a creamy squash soup. The deliciously thick sweet and savory soup was warm and comforting.
This was followed by the refreshing Gambino Signature Salad and Bucatini Amatriciana, a thick, spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center. The noodles were served with a slightly spicy sauce and topped with Pecorino cheese and bits of pancetta.
Then came a sampler of Gambino’s thin-crust pizzas, followed by a dessert of pink panna cotta.
Each dish is good for two to three persons, but Agustin said a lunch menu will be offered soon to cater to office workers in the area.
With Gambino already launched, Agustin and his partners are now working on another restaurant concept, Balboa, which he said is similar to Marciano’s.
There will also be a new teppanyaki restaurant called Akira, which will feature performing chefs.
Both will be located at the new Shangri-La mall.
Asked about his secret to his successful restaurants, Agustin said: “This is a tough business. It’s a very challenging business. But I was a waiter when I was 16, sabi ko, I’m pretty exposed to this kind of industry. I learned how to love it, to enjoy it.
“It starts with your passion, it starts with your dream. If you like it, don’t let anyone stop you,” he ended.