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.

 

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Aglio Olio pasta…

Aglio Olio Pasta…

“Nothing brings people together like good food.”

I used to like this Aglio olio thing with pizzas. Then I learned, it can be done with pastas too.

So I tried making one at home. And it was a winner. It is healthy and for a change, we were able to veer away from the usual red sauce base kind of spaghetti.

aglio olio
My version!=)

This “for a change” menu is ideal for a family who loves pasta a lot. I can offer them variety. Carbonara, Marinara, the simple pasta we used to prepare when everyone is lazy to cook – sauteed tuna in olive oil and dried tomatoes, baked macaroni, lasagna and this one.

Below is the recipe:

Ingredients

– Salt & ground black pepper to taste
– 1 kilo spaghetti
– 1 bulb of garlic, all cloves minced
– 3/4 cup olive oil (or canola oil)
– 1 tablespoon of butter
– 1 bulb of white onions
– 1/2 kilo of black tiger prawns, medium size (remove the head)
– a pinch of red pepper flakes
– 2 tablespoon of chopped celery leaves
– 2 tablespoon of chopped celery stalks
– 2 tablespoon of chopped red and green bell pepper
– 1/2 cup of chopped button mushroom

Directions:

– Boil 2 liters of water and salt it
– Once it’s boiling, add the pasta, add 2 tablespoon of oil (just so not to allow them to go together once cooked)
– On the side, heat the remaining oil and butter
– Stir fry the prawn’s heads (for the juice) and remove them after the juice comes out
– Saute the garlic & onions, when the onions are already translucent add the rest of the ingredients
– This usually takes about 10 minutes to cook
– In a colander or big bowl, add the drained pasta and mix the sauce evenly
– Add freshly ground pepper before serving, it enhances the aroma
– Topping it with Parmesan cheese is an option

Isn’t it so easy? =)

Bon Appetit!

AMICI – Learning Italian…

AMICI-Learning Italian

“I’ve never met a dish of pasta I did not love.” ~Unknown~

The tagline “Its more fun in the Philippines” is all true to me. Especially for foreigners. Why did I say that? The country caters to different dishes from almost every nationalities. Be it Japanese, Italian, Mexican, French, American, Swiss, Thailand, Vietnamese, to mention a few. You will likely prove it by the foods that Philippines offer to their visitors. Probably why a lot have made their sojourn in the country since they won’t have a hard time looking for their favorite food back home should the craving attacks.

One of which is Italian food. It is actually available almost anywhere. Even when I was in Tacloban. I used to have my dinners at Giuseppe’s, an authentic Italian restaurant where the owner who hailed from Italy mans the place himself.

One restaurant in Mandaluyong – Cantina Sicilianita’s chef even learned how to make home-made Ricotta cheese in Italy and brought the recipe here.

I’ve tried a lot of pizzas and pastas and gelatos. And I am having difficulty to choose who among them is the best.  Because each offers a different twist and you will definitely fickle making a choice when it comes to which one is the best for you. It benefits you from the endless alternatives to choose from.

One of which is Amici. Specialty: Italian food. Pastas and pizzas. And an ice cream parlor to go with it – Caramia.

amici
Elegant menu..
amici 5
Amici/ Caramia – ATC..
amici 2
Pizza. Pasta. Gelato.

I was lucky enough to taste all the variants because the Store Manager of their branch in Alabang is a former colleague of mine.

cara
Courtesy of: http://caramia.ph/

My favorite from the many flavors she had me tried, a teaspoon full for each, is the pistachio, sansrival and of course blueberry cheesecake! (–,)

sans
Sansrival… courtesy of: http://caramia.ph/
Blueberry-Cheesecake-Gelato-Small
Blueberry cheesecake. She knew it and had me try this first…<3 courtesy of: http://caramia.ph/
pistachio
Pistachio as recommended. Promise it’s good! Courtesy of: http://caramia.ph/

Amici originated back in 2001 with their pilot branch situated in Don Bosco, Makati. It was managed by the Salesian priests and started small until they became famous. My passion for anything vintage captured by their mosaic floors in this branch. And that tree that they didn’t cut and became part of the interior is just so amazing. It was extraordinary to me because personally I can not cut a tree. The place for me acquired a soul.

Their best seller is Spaghetti Al Tesori Del Mare. But I especially loved the Spaghetti Al Promodoro which is tomato-based. They made it so creamy I could just pull the sauce all off from the pizza and eat them on its own. For pizza it’s Pepperoni (as always) with three kinds of cheese (provolone, mozzarella and parmesan). During this visit, we tried Napoletana..

amici 3
We tried Napoletana for a change..

For pastas, I like their Raviolis too. The pasta is al dente and I can right away separate the taste of the fillings (we usually get pesto or shrimp) and I’m already good. =)

My health buff bff would never get tired of her Aglio olio e pepperoncino.

amici 2
Too oily yes, but as my BFF said. It’s still healthy.. ehehe

One friend commented that it is too oily though she justified that the oil is as well healthy. Amici uses olive oil in all their dishes.

I also like Italian restaurants with free-flowing parmesan cheese. I use it to take the place of salt. It makes my palate creamier. So less star for me if an Italian restaurant doesn’t have it. Additional star for the freshly ground pepper. And another additional star if the attendant volunteers to ground the pepper for you usually with a wooden pepper grinder. Amici have all of these. And I don’t mind dining there again and again. This picture is actually my 5th visit to Amici. And I’m looking forward for more visits when my “Amici” (friends) and I craved for Italian restaurant in Alabang. =)

Caffe Puccini at the Fort Strip

Cafe Puccini..

I love places that have an incredible history.
I love the Italian way of life, I love the food,
I love the people, I love the attitudes of Italian.
~Sir Elton John~

My foodie buddy and I were thinking of where to dine-out come Sunday of this particular week. We ended up at the Fort Strip and opted to try this authentic Italian Restaurant on this corner block somewhere in Bonifacio Global city.

fr the outside
Welcoming and attractive…
3s
From the inside…
great interiors
Adorned…

Cafe Puccini reflects all that is Italian, without you reading it’s name, you will know instantly that it’s an Italian restaurant. There are murals everywhere depicting some icons of Italy. Various knick-knacks are all over the place giving us a hint of Italy.

front
Entrance…

They specifically themed their interiors like it’s the 1920s.

We actually found ourselves craving for pastas and pizzas. And so we ordered those for this late Sunday lunch. I must say it is a place that will satisfy all your Italian cravings. Skipping the antipasti (the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal), zuppe (soup) and insalate (salad). They have a wide selection to choose from and are partnered with premium wines. Pastas are of different kinds: penne, spaghetti, lasagna, ravioli, gnocchi, fettuccine to name a few.

This vintage pasta maker caught my attention and I visualized how the chef was forming its’ dough and laid it there to create pastas in different shapes moreso spaghettis! =)

pasta maker
Pasta maker…

As we wait for our orders, our eyes were already filled with experience of Italy. Each item that you see in all corners and walls are reminiscent of what a typical authentic Italian restaurant is.

bar
The bar…
mural 2
To the kitchen…
mural
West wing…
lamp
East wing…
chalkboard
I am always amazed with chalk written menu boards..

The feel is truly there, even in their menus, and even if some terms are unheard of, I didn’t have a hard time recalling them as I encountered them in my recipe books and other Italian restaurants in the Philippines.

menu
Is he Mr. Puccini? (–,)

I even saw their Sommelier assisting this couple across our table as she removes the cork from the wine bottle with a vintage cork borer. As she poured the sauvignon wine to their glasses, it clearly shows, she was trained to do that.

I have estimated that the inside of this restaurant can accommodate more than 50 guests, I especially loved their deep-buttoned scarlet upholstery on their “settee”.

red seats
Scarlet buttoned seats…

And the patio outside can sit more or less than 30 guests.

chands
Their chands…

Having been to many different Italian restaurants including Guiseppe’s in Tacloban City, where the Italian owner mans the place himself, interacts with his guests and reminds me of those wedges and logs of cheeses in their display chiller. He would normally boasts that he bought them himself directly from Italy.

Cafe Puccini on the other hand minus the Italian owner to entertain you, created an Italian ambience like no other.

Most of the guests at that time are foreigners. It was such a good time to bond with one of my best buddies who loves to eat just like me. She had her favorite seafood: lobsters. And ordered for black raviolis filled with minced lobsters’ meat topped with tomato sauce with chunks of lobsters too.

2
Black Raviolis and lobsters..

We shared with each other 10 slices of pizza Italiana with ricotta cheese which aroma I can smell as the waitress was about to bring it on our table. It was topped with salami that are lightly spicy and so the menu said.

1
Pizza Italiana…

Since we are not wine persons, we ordered for their bottomless iced tea that comes with a slice of lemon which enhanced its’ flavor. Just like saying what’s an iced tea without the lemon slice?

iced tea
Thirst quenching…

This late lunch at Cafe Puccini was satiating and we left the place with happy tummies.

menuboard
I want to try their steak too!

Not to forget mentioning the complimentary breads neatly placed on a basket with 2 kind of spreads. A pate and tomato salsa.

4
Pate and Salsa…

Buonissimo! (–,)

ps

They showed us their big display chiller with their specialty cakes lining-up and introduced us to each. Since we were craving for frozen yogurt since last week. We opted to give in to our indulgence and got this salted caramel flavored yogurt. Five toppings in all. Yey! ❤ And that is guiltless bliss! (–,)

froyo
Guiltless…