CEBU CITY -- High atop the affluent Panorama Heights of Cebu City is a hidden Italian dining destination where a Michelin star chef rules the kitchen. Built on a slope with spectacular views of the Cebu hillsides, Anzani offers a dining experience like no other.
At the helm of the restaurant is the husband-and-wife team of Marco and Kate Dychangco-Anzani. He takes charge of the kitchen, while she handles everything else.
Chef Anzani has a led an illustrious globe-trotting career that started when he was 16. He sharpened his skills under the tutelage of legends like Paul Bocuse and Alain Ducasse. The highlight of his culinary career was Chefs, his restaurant in Turkey which earned him three Michelin stars. After that, he moved to Asia where he worked with the Shangri-La group to open hotel restaurants around the region.
The food in Anzani really can’t be categorized as just Italian as touches of other cultures can be found in the menu.
“Everything from specialty travels that we've done in Europe and everything that is the summation of Marco’s Career. He lived in Turkey, he lived in Greece, he did stints in Spain. Which is why we call it progressively new Mediterranean,” explained the chef’s wife Kate.
Anzani enjoys a clientele of locals who are looking for an extra-special place to celebrate special occasions. Kate noted that Cebu has its share of tourists and expats, notably Japanese and Indians, who have a predisposition to Italian food. Many of these out-of-town visitors have also become repeat Anzani guests.
While the couple has set up restaurants that cater to other segments of Cebu foodies, the restaurant on the slopes of Nevil Hills is their pride and joy. The restaurant is built like a lodge with warm, cozy, interiors. There are several dining sections with some corners specifically designed for private meetings.
Below the main dining area is a wine cellar which can be reserved for intimate and romantic dinners. Outside is an al-fresco bar where guests can chill out before dinner. Beyond the bar is a view deck which has a spectacular view of the orchid-filled hillside.
Because of this unique layout, Anzani has hosted its share of unique events from whisky tasting to art exhibits featuring foreign artists.
The restaurant bakes its own bread. These are great starters which come out fresh and hot from its brick oven. The bread may seem unsual since these are baked in clay pots. They look like cup cones with a scoop of ice cream. Pair these with a choice of Anzani mezzes including hummus and tzatziki.
Sampler plates are a good introduction to the restaurant’s menu. The plates featured bite-sized portions that are available as full entrees in the restaurant.
The Wonders of the Ocean Sampler shows off the Anzani philosophy of letting the ingredients sing for themselves. Garnished with the bare minimum of herbs and oils, the flavors of the sea really shine through.
This seafood platter contains Bangus Belly with Beetroot, Crispy Calamares, Cocktail Prawns, Scallops with Baba Ganoush, Oyster with Cheese and Spinach, Tuna Carpaccio, and Smoked Salmon with Caviar and Cucumber.
The antipasti sampler features small bites that are preludes to their main dishes. Chicken Dumpling, Gruyere Cheese, Beef Carpaccio with olives, walnuts, oranges and tomatoes, Duck Breast on top of couscous, spinach and ricotta panzerotti, Caprese with pesto, sun dried tomatoes, Parma ham with cherry peppers, and Tomato Roulade pizza crust rolled with parma ham and cheese
True to Chef Marco’s Italian roots, the restaurant makes its own pasta. They regularly mix in ingredients with the pasta dough to come up with a different spin to common pasta dishes. For example, Pasta Al Nero is usually prepared with ordinary pasta and putting the squid ink in the sauce. What Anzani does differently is that the squid ink is kneaded into the dough. The flavors of the squid ink are retained without the irksome blackening of the diner’s teeth and lips.
Another thing they do differently is that the pasta is cooked al cartoccio. The noodles, oils, sauces, and ingredients are sealed inside a wax paper bag and cooked inside the brick oven. The result is a braise where the pasta soaks up the flavors from the other ingredients in the paper bag.
The featured dessert was the Anzani Bomb, a stunning creation of cloud-like torched meringue on top of sponge cake and ice cream. It’s a little sweet and would nicely go with a glass of wine.
A highlight of the Anzani dining experience are the wines. The wine cellar has the entire line of Enio Ottoviani wines pressed from grapes coming from the Rimini region. The Ottoviani vineyards grow their own grape varietals, the Rosso Rubicone, which get their flavor notes from the terroir around the Rubicon River.
On top of this, the Anzanis regularly organize wine and food tours to Italy to highlight the vineyard and the wines.
Besides the restaurant, the Anzanis have their plates full with other projects in the hospitality industry setting up boutique hotels around the country. They have a project in the works to bring Chef Marco’s progressive Mediterranean food to Manila, which is set to open later this year.
Anzani is located along the Cebu Transcentral Highway, in Panorama Heights, Nivel Hills, Lahug, Cebu City, and is open for lunch at 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and for dinner at 5:30 p.m. to 12 mn.