An image of Jose Rizal can be seen in Linguini Fini. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA – An Italian-American restaurant in Hong Kong known for its farm-to-table cuisine has made its way to Manila.
Linguini Fini joins the growing list of specialty global restaurants at SM Mega Fashion Hall in Mandaluyong City, which includes Japan’s Saint Marc Café and Osaka Ohsho and Hong Kong’s Tim Ho Wan, among others.
Set to open this month, Linguini Fini was brought to Manila through a partnership between Hong Kong’s Homegrown Foods and The Moment Group, which is behind homegrown concepts like 8 Cuts, Manam and ‘Cue.
Executive chef Vinny Lauria and Homegrown Foods founder Todd Darling are in town to make sure that everything is in its right place.
“My grandparents came from Italy… I want to make sure that I pay respect to my grandparents’ cuisine and also to do it right here in Manila,” Lauria told selected members of the media during Linguini Fini’s pre-opening dinner. “We want to do it the right way, without bastardizing my family’s tradition.”
Linguini Fini prides itself in making everything in-house, from the pasta and pizza dough to the bread, mozzarella and pickled vegetables. The restaurant also promises to use only organic ingredients, with Lauria saying it is their way of showing his hospitality to diners.
“We want to make sure that we know, first of all, how it tastes. We want to know the flavors. But in addition to that, we want to know what we put into our guests’ bodies. It’s part of hospitality,” he said.
Having said this, Lauria said customers can expect a different experience in Linguini Fini Manila as opposed to its Hong Kong counterpart. There are dishes served here that cannot be found in Hong Kong – and vice versa – as it all depends on the availability of local ingredients and the country’s cuisine.
For one, the Manila branch of Linguini Fini has pizza topped with garlicky longganisa (Filipino sausage), and pasta with aligue (crab fat), and a pig’s head terrine served with an aioli made of buro (fermented rice).
“The buro, I thought it really worked well with the terrine,” Lauria said, adding, “We used longganisa for our smaller New York-style pizza.”
Aside from the food, the interiors of Linguini Fini in Manila have a distinct Filipino touch, with images of Jose Rizal, a jeepney and a man who looks like boxing champ Manny Pacquiao seen on the dimly lit restaurant’s walls.
An image of a boxer who looks like Manny Pacquiao is seen on the walls of Linguini Fini in Manila. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
Linguini Fini serves Italian-American food with no pretense. There are no fancy words thrown around – just a few Italian and English names and a quick list of main ingredients for each item on the menu.
Prices are slightly higher compared to the usual pasta joint because of the use of high-quality ingredients, but the dishes here are relatively affordable.
The pre-opening dinner started with Artisan Salumi, a platter containing an assortment of Italian cured meats, roasted peppers and olives. This and the Caprese made of homemade mozzarella, organic heirloom tomatoes, basil and aged balsamic vinegar helped set the mood for the rest of the meal.
Artisan Salumi. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
Caprese. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
This was followed by the Crispy Pig’s Head Terrina, which Lauria said is one of his favorite dishes. The pig is brined and turned into a terrine, resulting in a deep, rich flavor. The giardiniera (pickled vegetables) and the buro aioli (for that Filipino touch) give a nice, vinegary tang, tempering the strong taste brought by the offal forcemeat.
Crispy Pig's Head Terrina. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
Three kinds of pasta were then brought to the table. The Candied Squid Infused Linguini Fini Spicy Seafood Ragu is a light dish despite containing many ingredients – minced octopus, squid, lobster, shrimp, some basil and buttered tomato.
Candied Squid Infused Linguini Fini Spicy Seafood Ragu. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
The Papardelle “Nose to Tail” Bolo is both beautiful and thoughtful as it makes the use of different pig parts, which means nothing goes to waste. Topped with shavings of Parmiggiano Reggiano, the pasta is Lauria’s take on the classic Bolognese.
Papardelle “Nose to Tail” Bolo. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
“We did it like a classic Bolognese,” he said, “All the flavors come together nicely.”
The third pasta served that night is simple spaghetti with fresh crab meat, aligue, chili, mint and dayap (lime). The dish is balanced in terms of flavor, with the noodles soft yet firm to the bite.
Spaghetti with Crab Meat. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
After the pasta dishes came the Longganisa and Scarmorza Pizza, which effectively combines Filipino and Italian flavors. A slice is best enjoyed with a dollop of pickled chili, a staple in Linguini Fini Hong Kong.
Longganisa and Scarmorza Pizza. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
The restaurant’s take on porchetta, meanwhile, includes slow-roasted fennel-rubbed pork belly topped on focaccia like an open-faced sandwich. The local organic vegetables balance out the bold flavors of the porchetta.
Porchetta with Local Organic Vegetables. Photo by Karen Flores, ABS-CBNnews.com
Linguini Fini is expected to draw a crowd in Manila when it opens this month, given its convenient mall location and fresh, sustainable offerings. Let’s hope that the restaurant will follow through on its good intentions for the next several years.
3/F Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall