Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

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Manila’s best-kept Italian secret

posted by in Italian, Restaurants

It’s a place that’s been around since the 1990’s, but I only just ate there a few weeks ago. I don’t know anyone who’s been there, but a lot of people know about it as “the place where they sell great gelato.” Indeed, this restaurant’s greatest claim to fame (at least one of them) is their gelato – but more on that later. It’s called Amici (a-MEE-chee), Italian for friends. It’s along A. Arnaiz Road, which everybody still calls Pasay Road, right beside the Don Bosco school.

Amici’s proximity to a school for elementary and high school boys may partly account for its mess hall-meets-cafeteria look. You enter and then you can’t help but stop smack in the middle of the room, trying to make sense of the system that makes this place work. There doesn’t appear to be any waiters and you wonder why on earth people are forming lines on both sides of the room! There’s a large gelato display case, but wait, you have to quell your stomach’s growls first. All around you, people are walking by with steaming plates of pasta and large pizzas that just beg to be bitten into.

Then it begins to make sense. One side of the room is for ordering pizzas, and the other side is for ordering pastas. Don’t worry about the long queues – the cooks move fast and are more than used to the frenzy. Basically it works like this at the counter: scan the paper menu while in line, give your order to the person behind the counter, fork over your money, and then move back! There’s no time for dawdling. There are too many hungry people behind you. You can hang on to the paper menu, it’s yours to keep as a souvenir so you can study it for what you want to eat next time. Really.

After you’re done ordering, snag a table and wait for your food to arrive. Amici’s décor is kitschy Italian – plenty of knickknacks, food posters, a quasi bar (ooh, let’s get tipsy before class!), pendants and trophies (no doubt from Don Bosco), and really cute plastic chairs in red and yellow (hmm, the colors of the pizza).

When I went to Amici, my party of two and a half adults (me, Bin, and Boo) dug into our four-cheese (4 Formaggi) pizza that consisted of mozzarella, taleggio, parmesan, and brie, which just hit me with its fragrance and taste: a winner which you must order when you come here. Our other pizza was the Piccantina – tomato, mozzarella, spicy salami, black olives, oregano, and olive oil. Each pizza is about 10-inches in diameter, large enough for two confident women or one he-man. Amici’s pizzas are super crispy with thin crusts and plenty of that cheesy trail that gets left behind when you take a bite. Alright, all together now: Mmmm!

Amici offers 25 different types of pasta sauces and about six different kinds of pasta noodles. I nosed my way into the kitchen and found out that they also make a special pasta with roasted red peppers, and one with lemon and olive oil. All the favorites are here, so just choose what you fancy or be adventurous. We tried the Tagliatelle con Salciccia, a red wine sauce with tomatoes, Italian sausage and Parmesan. Our other pasta choice was the Spaghetti Don Bosco, also in tomato sauce, but with plenty of ham and mushrooms. Boo went wild for that. All the pastas are served with garlic bread that is impossible to bite into, so let them be.

Okay, so it was a lot of food for two and a half adults, I admit. But we packed up the leftovers and had them for lunch the next day. There we were lingering over our meal when this waiter (yes, there are a few of them here), came up to us and said, “Last order na po.” Amici closes at 9 am, which is unheard of in this city, I tell you. Of course we refused to leave without having the mightily famous gelato, so we took our place behind the ever-growing line of people who like us, were only half-finished with dinner.

Gelato 101

Here’s our gelato, all in a line. One for Papa bear, Mama bear, and Boo bear. Amici’s gelato is unforgettable, and I’m not even talking about the cheap P35/scoop price tag. It’s rich and creamy, with subtle yet concentrated shots of flavor. Ice cream as we know it, turns most flavors into lighter, tamer versions of themselves, a myriad of ingredients drowning in cream. Gelato, a combination of milk, eggs, sugar, and the chosen ingredient (nuts, chocolate, coffee, fresh or dried fruits, alcohol, etc.), is softer, less firmly frozen.

Gelato is also very light compared to ice cream. There is less than six percent of fat per 100 grams. Less fat, but no lack of flavor?! Woohoo! Although freezing often diminishes flavors, somehow gelato tastes more intense than the main ingredient or fruit from which it has been made. The best milk-based gelato is flavored with all-natural ingredients and has a silky consistency. The flavor in gelato comes out because of the composition and harmony of the ingredients. The flavor is not just in your mouth, but also in your throat.

Amici also sells their gelato to go. Half a kilo of gelato is P150, while a kilo is P250-P300 depending on the flavor. My favorites are pistachio, hazelnut, and strawberry (and in that order, please). Bin and I have already bought about 3½ kilos of gelato from Amici since we ate there two weeks ago. Boo loves it too.

All I can say is, if I had a son, I’d send him to school in Don Bosco so that I’d have an excuse to eat at Amici everyday.

Amici

Arnaiz Ave. cor C. Roces Ave (Pasong Tamo Ext.), Makati
893-8915
10am-9pm Mon-Sat

13 Responses to “Manila’s best-kept Italian secret”

  • Hoy, Lori, i’ve been making aya you and Mari to go to this place with me since, i dunno, forever :) It’s my favorite italian place in the city, bar none. I’m really glad you’ve tried it na rin for yourself and discovered what makes it so special.

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  • Awi,

    Oy, I honestly don’t remember you making aya to go there with Mari. Sorry! I’m just glad I finally got around to it. Love love love it.

    lor

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  • I loooooooooooooove Amici!

    Amici is run by Fr. Colombo, an Italian priest who also runs the press across the parking area. There is also an Italian chef who gives cooking lessons. I love the Pizza Tutto Carne, Four Seasons (with artichokes!) and the Pasta Vongole (with real scallops in shells!)

    A tip: the next time you order gelato, snoop around the counter for dried fruit (langka, pineapple, etc) then graciously ask the lady server to sprinkle some on your gelato for an extra treat :-)

    [Reply]

  • C-

    You are a TRUE foodhound! Thank you for that added info. I will make sure to sneak behind the counter to get my dried fruit add-ons next time. :)

    lori

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  • amici! i love going to amici, even though sobrang pila pag lunch time, and its out of the way sa office– it has always been super pleasant eating lunch there. canteen italian, like i always call it.

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  • Lor, Awi,

    This one’s a winner!!! And I vouch for this, me the transplanted, italian-bred pinay I am! Some substituted ingredients don’t make the pasta as perfect (local ham, canned mushroom), as well as perhaps they way they cook their pasta (they don’t strain it well enough). But the pizza is PERFECT. Yummy. I can’t wait to try their ARTICHOKE pizza.

    As for the gelato, I love their BLUEBERRY ice cream. Their TIRAMISU seems to be gone :(

    I remember Awi’s aya a long time ago, and I somehow never got Lor to go with me either.

    Mari(mar)

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  • Hi Lori, had to read this post again because I finally saw Amici the other day — only in passing though. I’m wondering where you can park to eat there — did you park in the Church’s parking lot? Thanks :D Mel

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  • Mel-
    You can park at the church’s parking lot OR coming from South Super Highway, you may a quick right right after the entrance of Amici. It’s a little “eskinita” which opens up to a large parking lot.

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  • Guys, what would be the best time to go there? as in fewer people. and am i right in guessing that its located near when u turn from pasong tamo into arnaiz?

    thanks for any help…cant wait to try it out.

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  • Hi, I love Amici’s gelato and I’m actually wondering if I could get a franchise of Amici’s gelato :D (there’s one at Walter Mart). Just want to have that as a small business (sna can afford :D).

    Thanks

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  • Anonymous-
    I suggest calling Amici (number listed above) and ask to speak to the owner. Good luck!

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  • hello, for those who aren’t in the makati area but are somewhere in ortigas, i strongly suggest you try going to abbondanza pizzeria ristorante (it’s on the ground floor of the crescent condominium on san miguel avenue/amethyst drive, right across university of asia & the pacific). it’s a newly opened restaurant whose staff was trained by chef giorgio of amici de don bosco. they have in their menu a wide range of pasta, pizza, as well as the famous gelato. try out their signature abbondanza pizza – it’s nearly 3 foot long and good for the barkada!

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  • It’s so sad to see a post like this after Amici was commercialized… they’re using super substandard ingredients… tasteless food, hard noodles… even the gelato is blah right now… So depressing.

    [Reply]

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