A Sneak Peek (And Taste) Of Cicchetti And What Could Be One Of The Best New Restaurants This Year
Gearing up for a soft opening after November 12 is Cicchetti, a new Italian restaurant concept named after the savory snacks typically served in an Italian bar or informal restaurant. It is where the many fans of Alec Santos, the former chef de cuisine of Masseto/M Dining (at its original Salcedo Village location), can soon enjoy his delicious Italian fare again.
The Manila-born Chef Alec knew at an early age that he wanted to be a chef, citing British celebrity chef and restaurateur Jamie Oliver’s easy and approachable style of cooking as a major inspiration. After graduating from De La Salle University’s College of Saint Benilde, the young Alec moved to New York City to pursue his culinary dreams, working up the culinary ladder and soon landing jobs at some of New York’s finest kitchens like The Modern, Aureole, Lincoln Ristorante, and Carbone.
Chef Alec Santos
As part of Carbone’s pre-opening team, Chef Alec’s cooking prowess started getting recognized. From the chef de partie for pasta, he worked his way through the various stations, rising from the ranks to become Carbone’s AM sous chef. It was during his tenure at Carbone that the highly-regarded New York Italian restaurant garnered many accolades, including a coveted one Michelin star and a rare three stars from New York Times food critic Pete Wells, who described the restaurant as a “Red-Sauce Joint” that steals the show.
Cicchetti isn’t your typical mall Italian. It’s hidden up on the 8th floor of an office building beside Uptown Parade in BGC. It boasts an open kitchen, with an intimate space that can sit only around 20 to 24 indoors. I was fortunate to be invited to one of Cicchetti’s simulation dinners held last weekend, where Chef Alec presented a limited three-course menu as a preview of the Cicchetti approach.
Even before the first course arrived, we got to enjoy an assorted bread platter for sharing, served with a side of olive oil and grated cheese. The platter included slices of an interesting no-cheese Sicilian pizza called “grandma bread.”
The first course was a Cicchetti Sampler composed of three different savory snacks: an Instagram-pretty (but tasty, too) Caviar Patatina or potato croquette finished with a generous lumpfish caviar topping; a Carne Crudo or prime tenderloin with Pommery mustard and more lumpfish caviar; and Chicken Liver Mousse made with chicken liver pâté, candied orange, sliced red radish, and mint.
Assorted Bread at Cicchetti
Chicken Liver Mousse
For the mains, we were given a choice of three pasta dishes, starting with the crowd favorite Spaghettoni alla Vodka made with a mix of ground meats both fresh and cured, braised in an extra flavorful, hearty tomato-based sauce. Pesto Burrata is spaghetti with a light basil and cashew pesto sauce topped with burrata cheese, best eaten while still hot. Spaghetti alla Vongole has a lightly spiced, olive oil-based pasta sauce with Manila clams and cherry tomatoes, and finished with pangrattato or toasted breadcrumbs for added texture and bite. There was also a really good Pollo alla Soztanza or tender chicken breast and thigh, perfectly roasted with sage brown butter and lemon, and served with corn clusters and corn cream.
Spaghettoni alla Vodka
We ended the dinner on a high note with a choice of two desserts—a light and jiggly Panna Cotta finished with a berry gelée and almond crumble, and a classic, freshly whipped Ricotta Cream-filled Cannoli that came with a nutty granola-like side—both very good.
Based on the quality of the food served at this dry run dinner, I wouldn’t be surprised if this cozy, new modern Italian restaurant finds itself on everyone’s best new restaurants list for 2018, despite its quasi-hidden location.
Cicchetti is set to open by November 12, 2018, initially just for dinner service. The restaurant plans to serve coffee and pastries before dinner service, with lunch service to follow hopefully by next year. A bigger outdoor lounge area was still under construction during my visit. Parking is available in the building for small to medium-sized cars and SUVs only, as the exit lane is quite narrow. But ample parking is available at a nearby public open parking lot on Uptown Parade.
Cicchetti Italian Restaurant
8/F MDI Corporate Center (near Uptown Parade), 10th Avenue corner 39th Street, Bonifacio Global City, (0918) 636-8145 or (0966) 832-2878, IG @cicchettiph
Photos by Cyrene de la Rosa
Follow the author on Instagram and Twitter @cyrenedelarosa