CALIFORNIA PIZZA KITCHEN – Taking Italian food seriously like Italians do

California Pizza Kitchen – Taking Italian food seriously like Italians do

“Italian food is all about ingredients, and it’s not fussy and it’s not fancy.”~Woflgang Puck~

At Alabang Town Center, there is a wide array of Italian restaurants which you can choose from, such as Italiannis, Brooklyn Pizza, Amici, Cibo to name a few. When one I frequented. California Pizza Kitchen. It has been there as long as I can remember. I even have a photo with a friend at CPK more than 10 years ago.

So what’s the secret of a place to keep on thriving and remain strong despite of the numerous newly-constructed restaurants which offers the same products like they do.

Yes, CPK originated in the USA, created and owned by Americans, who put some tweaks on this traditional Italian dish and really took it seriously.

I think they do not stop researching for trends, they update their menu and they give out promotions during occasion constantly.

Their nachos now are colored when more than 10 years ago it’s just the usual yellow orange-colored chips. The ingredients they used are fresh and even the condiments are always updated, when it’s just Tabasco in the past years, they sense the demands of picky eaters and Sriracha or Cholulas are always ready on their tables.

Even the logo speaks for a thousand descriptions bringing you to this state where the legendary palm trees abound among other famous trees in California, from there to almost every part of the globe including the Philippines. =)

cpk logo
From 1985 to 2012 to present. =)

And of course not to forget mentioning the training they provide to their people extensive enough to keep customers coming. They keep this ROCK principle (rock philosophy: respect, opportunity, communication, kindness). Allowing their people to be inspired while at work.

So these are some of what they have in their menus:

I am not so much a fan of barbecue flavored stuff, but this hand-tossed pizza had me craving for more. I am used to pepperonis, so this one is new to me, and I really liked it. It is flavorful but not tiring and its’ spiciness is something I can tolerate. I’ve shared before I am not into spicy food, but this one is okay with me. =)

bbq pizza

The usual item that we asked to “advance call” is the nachos, we had this dip I so love, I wanted to do it at home. It’s their spinach artichoke dip, healthy and fun to eat too.

 

We tried one of the pastas too, vegetable primavera, which is also a healthy option.

veggie pasta

The flat bread with four cheese dip: hearth-baked mozzarella, queso quesadilla, smoked Gouda and Velveeta is so addicting.

4 cheese

I learned from the Restaurant Manager that Velveeta is a brand name compared to an American cheese, which texture is softer and smoother than a processed cheese. It is supposed to be consumed in moderation due to its’ high sodium content and preservatives.

While Gouda cheese is all natural from cow’s milk. Aside from the calories it’ll add to your diet, and fats, it’ll give you a little amount of calcium too. So, not bad.

The menu says “green mango salad” though I had yellow mangoes in it and I didn’t bother to contest it, it tasted really good, crunchy, fresh, a little bit funky like I’m a veggie lover all my life remember?

mango salad
Anti-oxidants. =)

So if you happen to visit Alabang Town Center and loves Italian food, you will have a lot of choices, and I’d like to personally recommend that CPK would be one of them. Happy eating!

You can find them in the following addresses:

  1. Alabang Town Center
  2. Greenbelt 5
  3. Bonifacio High Street
  4. Shangri-la Plaza Mall
  5. Century City Mall
  6. Promenade Mall
  7. SM Mall of Asia

You can also find them from time to time, offering promotions at Metrodeal (http://www.metrodeal.com/) if you want to enjoy great deals.

 

The Black Pig

The Black Pig
“Good food is good mood.”
Coming across an article that featured restaurants with the most beautiful and impressive interiors, being a designer,  it has drawn me to see them up close and personal. Neil’s Kitchen was in that list though I’ve been there several times and I must agree that their interiors is not just beautiful, their food is awesome too. The next that caught my attention from the list is The Black Pig.
It is a few blocks away from Neil’s Kitchen. It’s in Alabang too at the second level of Commerce Center. Without the heat of the sun, it is walking distance for me. The Black Pig’s facade isn’t too attractive as the whole place from the outside isn’t well- lighted. But the welcoming smiles of their attendants will compensate for that which kept my brain engaged.
Since Jen already commented:”The placed looked gloomy.” This is because they opted to use hanging lamps and pin lights on selected areas.
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Rustic..
Upon entrance, it is only the time I began admiring the place from the interiors, their furniture, lighting system, the colors that they’ve chosen, the vigilance of their attendants to the table wares (made by a known potter from Laguna), cutlery and the food itself. 
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Floor decal..

 

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Call cards..

 

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Looked Moroccan to me. =)
There are some touches of green elements which add life to the whole place. What will caught your attention is definitely the bar.
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Awesome..

 

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There’s the famous bar..

 

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I liked that swing door going to the kitchen..
It exudes order and class by the use of black and brown finishes. Usually, most bars looked untidy even if the items are properly arranged due to the fact that you see everything from it: sorts of bottles, glass, machines, some bars are even with baskets of fruits displayed on the counter like so much is happening in it. At The Black Pig, you will see the clutter though it will not sore your depicting eyes.
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Coasters made from Guava tree..

 

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All corners are inviting..

 

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And we choose this.

 

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Not yet peak time when we visited..

 

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That chair…

There’s even a guide for drinking wine.

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Very useful especially with me who doesn’t drink any liquor at all.

A cool utensils rack.

 

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Very orderly..

When it comes to food. We had a three course meal altogether which started with a green salad:

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I enjoyed this fresh treat..

I am training my palette with fresh greens and it’s followed by a slow-cooked chicken dish:

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Chicken please. =)

and home-made ice cream for dessert.

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Ube for me and caramel for Jen..

We had the feel of drinking Al fresco with that refreshing raspberry iced tea.

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Al fresco..
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Raspberry iced tea..

According to the attendants, peak time is usually dinner time onward because they serve alcoholic drinks too.

During the afternoon, if you wish for a less crowded place to have lunch or snack. The Black pig will give you that. It is ideal for business meetings too. For the overall experience, dining there, the ambiance, service and carefully prepared food is recommendable.
I suggest that you try it, when you’re heading to the south. They’re located at: Commerce Center Building, Filinvest Ave. corner, E Asia Drive, Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang, Muntinlupa, 1781 Metro Manila

Spatzle Euro Market Cafe

Spatzle Euro Market Cafe

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” ~Vincent Van Gogh~

Just recently, I wrote about this restaurant in Alabang which I found one of those places to drink and dine with the best interiors.

And again recently, I discovered another just a few blocks away from my work place. It’s sitting there for years now, when the new wing was constructed and it’s been a while that I have been to this mall.

True enough, anybody or any designer can create a space, though not all can come up with something enticing from the first look, that’s why if you rate a place, there is an allotted score for ambiance. Spatzle has the modern country feel. It is very welcoming.

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We got our choice. =)

Shangri-la Edsa mall is a 15 minute drive from work. It can offer you a wide array of choices when it comes to dining. Some of our most favorite Japanese restaurants are there, some French, Mediterranean, Chinese, Italian and of course Filipino restaurants.

This time, we know for a fact that shopping can get so tiring and we ended up hungry like wolves.

We learned earlier of this place that’s new to us. Spatzle Euro Market Cafe serves European cuisines with cool interiors, not too stiff and casual enough to literally enjoy another dining experience after a hard day’s work and shopping, and if I may I not miss to mention, the disappointment of getting something you really want when it is out of stock. Come on Jen, let’s eat!!!!

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Food and non – food merchandise.

So we headed right away to that part of this mall where the food spots are. Spatzle is situated in a corner, before reaching it, we came across a few, with barkers outside. However, we already know where we’re heading.

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I’ve always liked chalkboards.

Jen knew too, I do not like it, I mean “hard-selling” because it makes me doubt, why the place isn’t packed.

And even if at Spatzle, there are only a few tables occupied when we arrived, the more it encouraged us to get in since a crowded place only means longer waiting time for them to spread your orders. Besides, the open air feel is very inviting. And there are no barkers. =)

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The hexagons unified the rest of the place. From those upholstery, floor tiles, wall-mounted cabinets and tables.
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Hexagons here and there. But not tiring.

It didn’t took us long as well to place our orders. Yes, we’re hungry, and whatever angle I choose, our orders seems to be too much for 2 persons.

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We opted to share with one another this tongue twisting delight: the “Tarte Flambe Monte blanc”. Which toppings I especially liked, the paprika flavored potato chips, which they call as “Paprika chips”.

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Pizza was my first love. Or anything that looks and tastes like it. =)

I had the “Bacon mozza logs” 

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Honestly, I can only consume 2 at that time.

and Jen got a burger: the “Spatz haus burger”. One of their best sellers.

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USDA Angus burger for Jen.

We had “Watermelon slush” sweetened with wild honey to soften, in anticipation, the savor of all that we will consume in the next few minutes. We were offered to try their desserts, however, we were so full after digging.

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Watermelon slush.

After digging with no holds-barred kind of way, we knew that we will visit a second time. They pulled it off well. We both liked what we’ve chosen and enjoyed all the other extra ingredients thrown in it. We actually checked and eyed others from the menu. We will definitely come back. =)

PS:
I will get the bacon mozza logs once again. Since Mozzarella cheese in particular is like a happy pill for me! Yum!

Another PS:

I found it cute that they have sanitizers along the cubiertos comin’ in handy too. =)

Spatzle Euro Market Cafe is located at:

Level 5, East Wing, Shangri-La Plaza, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City.

STEAM YARD Coffee and Community..

STEAM YARD Coffee and Community..

“Good coffee is a pleasure, while good friends are a treasure!”

My encounter with this coffee shop cum retail/ concept store is by accident while I was waiting for a document in the Municipal hall of Muntinlupa City. The shop’s location is just a stone throw away situated alongside other known establishments. It was raining at that time and I had to look for a dry place to stay.

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Steam yard..
front-yard
Front yard of steam yard..
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Entryway..

The calligraphy in front of them lured me to go inside and was instantly amazed by it.

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Fusion of rustic and industrial..
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I see these only on the pages of a magazine..
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Such a looker..

There are more inside, a coffee shop that serves blueberry cheesecake and a dozen of on-line brands lined-up with their beckoning displays.

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Wide choices..
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Though they do not have whip cream..=(
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From first visit, I think I’ve bought a dozen already of various items from food to non-food..

Their items are those of millennials, however, the interiors is an amalgam of industrial and rustic motif. They also infused touches of Harry potter facets. You won’t fail to notice that the crowd they attract are students and young executives and those that are young at heart which includes me.

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Cosmetics!
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Cool shirts to choose from..
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I want this! =)

It was also very obvious that the owners (who are millennials too) are one of those manning the shop, in both areas (coffee shop and retail shop). You will notice it from their zesty appeal. Their above-board earnestness to provide good service to each guest that comes in is very evident.

The rest of the team are well-trained too. The Security officer flashes a bright smile to all those who enter the shop. Indeed, the atmosphere is very positive. There is a force that surrounds it like Harry’s magic and believe me, no one went out empty-handed. Or so I think only for those that I’ve seen.

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She said she will come back too.. Like I said when it was my first time to visit..

Initially, I ordered for a drink, my usual iced cafe latte, a few items I bought out of impulse. And a promise that I will bring my friends there.

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My cafe latte..

Before I leave, they called my attention and handed me with a card that came with a stamp and upon completing the rest of it (total of 10) will equate for a free drink. Not bad for a Marketing strategy, especially when they are just a few months old.

Despite of showing enthusiasm for icons that isn’t Filipino (I’m referring to Harry potter), the coffee they’re brewing is brewed locally.

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All about coffee and more..

There are packed gourmets which ratifies local producers. And honestly, they are packed well with attractive rustic labels.

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Personal consumption or gifts…
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Emmafied…=)
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They have the usual and they have syrups too..
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They have soaps, lotions, balms that are organic..

During my second visit. I purchased more items, for myself, for my soul daughter, for a colleague and tried their meals with cakes over coffee.

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We’re starving..

Jen okayed the place however she is a bit disappointed since their coffee didn’t have provision for those who wanted theirs with swirls of cream.

When we informed them that it might help if they provide it, they expressed their gratitude for the suggestion and assured us that it is under-study.

On my third visit with another millennial, I brought my son’s bff who is almost like a daughter to me, took her a few tops, and we had pasta and cakes over coffee. She is more excited than I due to the fact that she is also a Harry Potter enthusiast.

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We’re done with our orders when we thought of pasta.. Recommendation: more gravy for the steak sandwich..
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Typical marinara.. Recommendation: More sauce for this serving or less pasta..

Maybe we will visit every so often since we liked the idea of shopping and dining in one single place. Another important factor that I considered is that their items are of limited production so there’ll be no worries to see yourself wearing the same dress that the girl you passed by is wearing.

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Cha and moi..

The price, both for food and merchandise is competitive too.

MONALISA RISTORANTE..

Monalisa Ristorante

“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy pizza, and that’s the same thing.” ~unknown~

Holding such admiration to the diversity of cuisines from different countries. There is one particular country that I truly admire. Italy. Not to miss mentioning the beauty of their country gifted by God with such a vast pulchritude, breathtaking landscapes and naturally loving people. A country which I long to see with my own pair of hungry eyes. It has been a dream for years yet unfulfilled.

I also have a special liking and amazement for their food. Though they aren’t a big fan of risotto. And ironically, even if I am a typical Filipina who can not skip rice in my meals, but I can do if it’s pasta and/or pizza.

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I must admit, I am a pizza junkie. While I was pregnant, I craved for pizzas the whole time. I go for any brand. Even those stalls that sell cheaper pizzas topping it with just ham and cheese. We even bought ingredients once and did our own. We called it pizzacho. Because we already have a name for the baby in my womb. We named him Echo.

Having Alabang as my rendezvous, I keep on searching for a new and cool Italian restaurant until I came across Monalisa Ristorante. It is tucked in a corner at the second floor of Commerce center. And not the typical artisanal pizzeria, theirs is authentic Italian.

Commerce center is a mall sandwiched by two other malls: Festival mall and Alabang Town Center. There is something very special with Commerce Center. When you can’t breath due to the stream of townies either at Festival mall and Alabang Town center. Check it out and you’ll appreciate the ambiance of the whole place. There is privacy as well though it isn’t as big like the two malls that I’ve mentioned.

I kept falling in love with Alabang every now and then. As a teenager, I grew up there until Festival mall spawned. Alabang Town center did several expansions too, still, there are other options to choose from when you’re in Alabang. There is Civic drive where popular restaurants like Neil’s kitchen, Kanin club, Contis among others are situated. And several hotels for a cozy shop to sip coffee or teas plus your favorite cake or pastry or a spread from their “Eat all you can” menu.

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My knowledge of Commerce Center is accidental. Due to traffic, I opted to walk from Festival mall to ATC and in passing, there it is quietly sitted across Acacia hotel. The name: Monalisa Ristorante sounded very interesting. And from afar, you can see that the interior of the place is impressive. The murals in the ceiling is visible and enticing too.

As we’re about to enter this place, a huge reproduction of Monalisa will greet you with her famous mysterious smile. There are more murals inside. Some of which are paintings from the Renaissance era.

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Like a habit that’s hard to break. I took photos while we’re waiting for our food. Jen is already used to it. I take photos of my own too which is called “selfies” or photos of what we’re getting are “food porns”by the millennials. Sometimes, Jen take my pictures too.

 

 

And when there is an available attendant to take our pictures, we normally asked them to capture us together.

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We asked the RM to tell us about the “Create your own pizza”.

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Their best sellers and if they have Stellas per Jen’s request. Well, they don’t have that beer from Belgium. Jen was offered to try the wines. They have a nice cellar just across their kitchen counter.

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We opted for that “Create your own pizza” thing. You will choose 4 toppings and these are our choices:

– mushrooms

– pepperonis

– bell peppers

– cheese (a special kind)

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For pasta we had Pollo pizimente as recommended.

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It’s just good to know that each place we visit has something special to offer. At Monalisa, I like their dough, it is a bit gummy and tasty. And it’s made from wheat bread which made it a healthier treat. Their cheese (s) are awesome as well.

From the ambiance, excellent service of their people, taste and presentation, Monalisa Ristorante is my kind of Italian restaurant. I will visit again one of these days. 😊 They have zuppa, seafood pasta, house specialty and calzone!

PS

And they bake their own breads too. Their complimentary bread came with three different dips: butter, pesto and tomato sauce..=)

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Monalisa Ristorante is located at: Building 1 Commerce Center, Commerce Avenue Corner Filinvest Avenue, Alabang, Muntinlupa, 1781 Metro Manila .You can contact them at: 556 – 0708.