Inside Matteo Guidicelli And His Family's Da Gianni Cucina Italiana Restaurant
Matteo and his sister Georgia enjoy spending time with their brother Paolo
The Guidicelli family first decided to get into the food business three years ago. Siblings Matteo and Giorgia Guidicelli say the reason behind its inception was more than just purely business. The restaurant is lovingly dedicated to their Italian grandparents whom they affectionately call “Nonno” and “Nonna.”
The family’s first foray into the food industry was Trattoria da Gianni which opened in Cebu in 2015. “It’s a small place, that’s why it’s called trattoria or carinderia. Giorgia says their customers really get to taste the exact same recipes served in their household to this day. “We grew up with our grandparents so every opportunity we had, we would eat meals with them. We grew up eating Italian food. When they were alive, we never even thought which restaurant to go to because we always just ate at home, unless we had Japanese food,” she adds.
While Giorgia is focused on the operations of the restaurant, Matteo admits you will probably find him front of the house when he’s not busy with showbiz commitments. “On my days off from the set, I’m usually here serving. That’s what I love doing, connecting with the customers. What’s fun is you get to meet a lot of nice people. I think I got this from my Grandpa. If we’re at the long table, he’s the one who gives shots to everybody or laughs. Nonno was the entertainer talaga,” he shares.
Matteo says his sister is stricter with business while he takes a more laidback approach. But Giorgia points out that they work well together as a team “because we both listen to each other.” Matteo adds, “As a family, full force kami talaga in handling the business.”
Nostalgia and memorabilia
When a guest steps inside Da Gianni, expect to feel immediate coziness, as if entering the home of a family friend, complete with nostalgia and prized memorabilia, all of which belonged to their Nonno Gianni. Having worked with the same interior designer for Trattoria da Gianni, Matteo says they went for a hipper look in Manila.
“The first restaurant was very different. It was like the house of my grandparents, all white, all picture frames of my grandparents. For Da Gianni, we wanted to make it more contemporary, with a younger, millennial feel. So we went with a New York-ish, Italian-ish style,” he says.
A quick view of the place located inside a quiet commercial center in Alabang will give you lots of interesting things to peruse, including a specially-designed bar that displays their Nonno’s collection of old school Zippo lighters and monetary bills from all over the world. One wall proudly shows a vintage Italian bike while another wall has the framed collection of old school licorice candy boxes that was also one of their Nonno’s favorites as well as numerous Italian paintings, movie posters, and black and white photos in every wall.
Even the comfort room shows their Nonno’s favorite celebrity—a picture of the French actress Brigitte Bardot. Giorgia sums up the resto’s overall design as a loving compromise of tastes. “We wanted to emphasize terracotta because it’s Italian and it was Nonno’s style also. This restaurant is a mix of what we like and what our Nonno liked as well.”
But maybe even more interesting than the interiors is their predominantly Italian menu selection, which also includes unexpected items that are personal favorites of their family. The special breakfast menu offers danggit and chorizo from Cebu, served with their mom’s favorite sukang pinakurat on the side.
The coffee selection was personally sourced by Matteo who was influenced by his dad and Nonno. “I’m very passionate about the coffee. I’m really tutok there. I’m proud to say that our coffee beans are from Sultan Kudarat. It’s a very small farm in Mindanao that we use. We can go artisan sometimes, then local,” he admits.
The only difference between the food they grew up eating and the food in the restaurant is the venue. “Everything here we grew up eating. Our food is home-cooked goodness. People always ask, ‘Is it authentic?’ I don’t know what the word means because all the other Italian restaurants say their food is authentic. But this is cooked from my kitchen to your table kumbaga so everything’s fresh. You can eat here knowing you’re eating healthy, clean food,” he explains.
Giorgia says if there’s one thing to feel most proud of, it’s their commitment to having the most authentic of ingredients at all times. “It’s the family feel, the authenticity of it, and our integrity to keep our ingredients at a premium level. We make sure that all our ingredients are of good quality. We will not compromise our Italian ingredients like olive oil, and tomatoes for the tomato sauce. We use Himalayan pink salt. A lot of these small stuff really set us apart from the other restaurants,” she says.
*This article was originally published in Metro Home & Entertaining magazine's Vol. 15 No. 2
Photographs by Paulo Valenzuela
Special thanks to Star Magic