Dining

Amado Forés Serves Classic Italian Fare at Newly Opened Restaurant a mano

The young restaurateur tackles a cuisine closely associated with the family business but sets himself apart by showcasing each of Italy's regional specialties.
IMAGE ALICIA COLBY SY
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At a mano, a new Italian eatery at Rockwell’s Power Plant Mall, children are well taken care of. Instead of being asked to entertain themselves with a box of crayons and a coloring book, as children often are, little ones at a mano are given a glass of chocolate milk and are encouraged to hone their pasta making skills at the counter, while their parents make some important decisions. I do not envy them—the parents, I mean—since choosing between one dish from another at the new Amado Forés–led restaurant is no easy task.

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From the mid-century typeface of the restaurant’s logo to the heavy-duty kitchen toys like the Tamagnini manual meat slicer from Emiglia Romana, Valoriani pizza oven, and Faema professional espresso machine, the Noel Bernardo-designed space is classically Italian, just like the food being made in the open kitchen.
Photo by ALICIA COLBY SY.

They may decide to start their meal with the gnocco fritto, air-filled pillows of fried dough topped with thinly sliced cured meats from the manual Tamagnini flywheel slicer, or with the focaccia di Recco, a cheese-filled Italian flatbread. Both would be excellent choices. In the few days it has been open, the focaccia has already become one of a mano’s greatest hits. Thin and crisp layers of burnished crunchy dough alternate with stringy melted stracchino cheese. It is simple, delicious, and it will be the dish that diners will crave long after they walk out the door.

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Gnocco fritto
Photo by ALICIA COLBY SY.
Focaccia di Recco
Photo by SHOOT NOW EAT LATER.

Afterward, the two will engage in serious debate between the polpette di Marghi or the Insalata cacio e pepe. “But, they are so different,” one will say. “Meatballs, even if they are smothered in a delicate tomato sauce and dotted with fresh basil, don’t count as a vegetable dish. We definitely need the salad.”

Named after Amado’s mom, the meatballs may yield softly to the touch but they are packed with a mouthful of the steady flavors of chopped beef and fresh herbs. To a certain extent, the same can be said of the cheesy topping over the stalks of romaine. A welcome alternative to a classic Caesar, the pecorino’s piquant flavor is a match for the freshly milled black pepper it is paired with. The addition of some tangy balsamic vinegar is exactly what the salad needs to remain fresh, with the powerful ingredients in the dressing.

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Polpette di Marghi
Photo by ALICIA COLBY SY.

Next, determining the selection of pasta would definitely warrant some individual reflection before cases are made and arguments are presented. For most a mano diners, this section of the menu will be the main attraction. As much as Amado may want to eschew the reputation that precedes him—after all, his mother is the celebrated Filipina chef Margarita Forés, Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2016 and recently named by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as an official Ambassador for Gastronomy Tourism—he certainly carries the weight of expectation. If Margarita has schooled Filipinos with a primer of Italian cuisine over the past two decades and has expanded their culinary vocabulary through her successful Italian chain, Cibo, perhaps it will be Amado and a mano that will expound on that knowledge by showcasing each of Italy’s regional specialties. If there is one thing that he has surely inherited from her, it is his love of food, Italian or otherwise, and an appetite for precision. 

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Serving both freshly hand-made and high quality dry pasta—depending on what works best with the sauce—the pasta menu lists regions of Italy next to pasta specialties that hail from each area.

By now, the children will have come back from their garganelli-making and, proud of their hard work, they will insist on ordering the Garganello Bianco, freshly made pasta swathed in a creamy sauce of truffle butter, peas, and prosciutto. Don’t worry, the parents will enjoy this just as much as the children, and it will complement their Vongole from Campania and the tagliatelle with ragu Bolognese from Emilia Romana, my personal favorite.

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Tagliatelle with ragu bolognese
Photo by ALICIA COLBY SY.
Vongole pasta
Photo by SHOOT NOW EAT LATER.
Garganelli Bianco with truffle butter, peas, and prosciutto
Photo by CRIS BONOAN.

As the regional focus extends to the menu’s pizza selection, diners may think to themselves that maybe they’ve had too much, but somehow still manage to ask the waiter to bring a carbonara pizza from Lazio with pecorino Romano cheese, smoked pork jowl, egg yolk, and pepper instead. It’s hard to ignore the fragrant and beautiful pies that come out of the Valoriani pizza oven and make their way to other tables. I congratulate them on this excellent choice. One bite into the wet slice with its charred and bubbled crust that bears the tang of fermentation, and they will not regret the decision.

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Carbonara pizza
Photo by ALICIA COLBY SY.

But to only order pizza and pasta, as good as they are, would be to miss out on the wonderful secondi offered. Top choices include a Tuscan Pollo al Burro, a nod to the classic chicken, butter, and rosemary dish made famous by the treasured Florentine restaurant Trattoria Sostanza, the Pesce al Cartoccio, a whole fish baked in parchment with lemon, capers, and tomatoes, finished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and the Bistecca Fiorentina, a perfectly seared rib-eye steak offered with bucce di patate potato skins.

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Seared rib-eye steak
Photo by ALICIA COLBY SY.
Pesce al Cartoccio, a whole fish baked in parchment with lemon, capers, and tomatoes.
Photo by ALICIA COLBY SY.
Tuscan Pollo al Burro
Photo by CRIS BONOAN.

The Instagram–worthy assortment of cannoli is a wonderful choice for dessert, as is the lemon tart served with a fresh grating of parmesan cheese. But they should not leave without trying the tiramisu; it's one of the best I’ve ever had and with a cup Passalacqua coffee, it’s the best way to end their meal, and one of the best reasons to return.

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Tiramisu
Photo by ALICIA COLBY SY.

Cannoli Sociliano
Photo by ALICIA COLBY SY.

R1 Level, (Stall 144) Power Plant Mall, Rockwell, Makati.

 

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Alicia Colby Sy
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