Linguini Fini Opens in SM Megamall With an Organic, Nose-to-Tail AgendaSeptember 10, 2014
“The market needs to be shook up,” Homegrown Foods’ Todd Darling and founder of Linguini Fini enthuses, when asked about the Italian dining scene in Manila. “I feel a lot of Filipinos have settled with the more commercial Italian restaurants because they were the only one of its kind since 10-15 years ago.” Hearing this observation from a New Yorker transplanted in Hong Kong can seem a little trite, but really, part of this rings true, with only a handful of genuine Italian restaurants dotted around the city. This gives Linguini Fini a space in our burgeoning dining scene—and with their organic, nose-to-tail values, there is no doubt it will set them apart.
Brought in by the behemoth Moment Group, Linguini Fini is an Italian franchise which originated in Hong Kong, with former Babbo veteran Vinny Lauria at the helm. Even then it was always about sustainability. To them it wasn’t a trend, but a real, no bullshit philosophy—Italian food is about the ingredients after all. To Darling, “the fresher the produce is, the more contained the flavor.” How does this translate to Manila then, when what is native to our shores greatly differs from that in New York or Hong Kong? “We’re actually cooking how Italians would cook if they were in Manila—apply the same technique and use ingredients that are available locally and creating Italian food here in Manila using local flavors.”
If it is this philosophy that makes the food this—for lack of a better term—delicious, then the folks at Linguini Fini are doing things right. During a sneak peek event, Lauria created a terrine of pigs head, fried until the crispy exterior contrasted the gelatinous cheeks, and paired it with an aioli made of buro, the pungent, fermented condiment local to Pampanga. This embodied what their values are—nose-to-tail, with an acceptance of our ingredients and flavors, but still wholly Italian.
The food at Linguini Fini is both striking yet familiar, comforting but challenging. Dishes feel like home-cooked meals dealt with an experienced hand and a mind creative enough to put a riff on tradition without losing its integrity. This is all over their menu—sugo is made with chicken livers, and a bavette with crab, aligue and dayap. The bolo is excellent, with veal, oxtail, which provides a sticky unctuousness, and pork testa punctuating the softness of the pappardelle with enticingly chewy bits of brain.
At Linguini Fini, there is room for both the adventurous eater, and those who prefer to color within the lines. They have adapted their sensibilities to ours without compromising on taste, which can only mean success for this new place in town. Hopefully, their food will always remain this good—and that terrine finds a permanent home on their menu.