Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cantina Sicilianita: A Taste of Sicily

Cantina Sicilianita: A Taste of Sicily


Imagine the soft breeze of the Mediterranean Sea tenderly rustling your hair, while you stare out at blue sky and sea.  The sun is high, drenching the countryside with bright light.  You pick up your red wine; smell its aroma before slowly putting the glass to your lips.  You put down the glass only to pick up your fork for some Cannoli.  You savor the taste of the Ricotta cheese on your tongue.  Softly you mumble to yourself, 'Questa è la vita...' ('This is life').  And then you suddenly realize that you’re at Cantina Sicilianita in the Philippines as the couple next to you tries not to stare at the odd person with a glassy look in his eyes.

A taste of Sicily in the Philippines

Cantina Sicilianita is a cozy restaurant located along Shaw Boulevard in the Facilities Center Building in Mandaluyong. The word cantina is derived from the Italian word for cellar, winery, or vault.  In modern Italy, the word cantina has a wide variety of applications and is often used for restaurants, food stores, and wineries.  And from the animated talk I had with owner Mark Buhain, I took away that Sicilianita means “the way of life in Sicily” or how I like to remember it, the restaurant that shares the Sicilian way of life with you. Mark has travelled several times to Sicily for vacation and was smitten with the beauty of the island and its extraordinary food.  So smitten in fact that he decided that he needed to share its flavors with the Philippines.  He meticulously studied the food and brought his cooking skills back home with him.  I am glad that he did.
Sicilian inspired interior
The interior design of the restaurant aims to give you that authentic Sicilian experience--from the design of the tables, pictures, and even the chairs. But the real detail and experience here comes from the food that is being served.
Imported beverages from Sicily
The first dish we had the pleasure to enjoy was the Polpette al Sugo (P150), which are traditional meatballs topped in thick tomato sauce and special spices.  Unlike our local version of the meatball, this one had a different taste and texture to it that it just has to be tried.  The meatball goes perfect with some pasta, and while eating it I just couldn’t help craving for more.
Sunny, with a chance of meatballs: Cantina Sicilianita's Polpette al Sugo
The next dish also came in a plump, round form. It was perfectly fried to a crispy golden brown and also came in threes.  The dish is called Arancini (P160), saffron risotto balls stuffed with pancetta ragu, placed on top of a tomato based sauce. The dish was crunchy and once pried open, you could see the interior as a soft combination of delectable ingredients. It is best eaten right away while it’s still warm.
Arancini: fried saffron risotto balls
Cantina Sicilianita is Italian, and being a pasta place, I of course had to try a pasta dish. Since pretty much all on the menu sounded good, we had a go at the Pasta alla Norma (P170) which is apparently named after a famous opera by Vincenzo Bellini.  Though I wasn’t quite sure what the connection was with the opera (a pretty tragic love story) and the pasta, I still had a great time devouring the food.  It’s made out of penne pasta, roasted eggplants, tomatoes, fresh basil, and ricotta cheese.  Personally, this was my favorite dish for the night as the pasta was al dente and the roasted egg plants gave the dish a really authentic taste.
Pasta alla Norma: an opera for your tastebuds
Sicily, besides being known for its rich history, is also very well known for its Cannoli.  And what would a Sicilian themed restaurant be without its own version of Cannoli right?  The last dish we tried at Cantina Sicilianita was of course the house specialty, the Cannoli Siciliani (P150 for 2 pieces)Cannoli basically means “little tubes” in Italian.  This version is made with ricotta cheese and pistachio nuts, and is a must try. You can also try the Cannoli with the Caffe Americano Combo (P125), as this dessert goes well with coffee.
Cannoli Siciliani: sweet Sicilian pastry
Cantina Sicilianita is like a free plane ticket to Sicily. The food and ambiance will transport your tastebuds to the Italian island over your lunch break or dinner, and you can be safely home as soon as you’re done eating.  There are plenty of other dishes to explore, and you might just be the next person with that glassy look in his eyes when you come and get a taste of Sicily at Cantina Sicilianita.
Establishment Info

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