Dessert Comes First

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

Magnum White King

My best-kept Italian secret

posted by in Italian, Restaurants

slice of pizza
I wrote an article before about Amici being Manila’s best-kept Italian secret. There’s another restaurant, also Italian, which I consider my best-kept secret. It’s a place that’s particularly dear to me for two reasons: my Bin took me there on our first date, and two and a half years later, we had dinner there the night he popped the question and slipped a rock onto my finger.

We’ve been married eight years already, and we still go there to relive old memories and drop in whenever we’re in the area. The place is called Trattoria Uno. Ensconced comfortably in a corner at the 3rd level of Ali Mall, it’s owned by George Araneta, who incidentally, also owns the mall. I assume it’s safe therefore to say that Trattoria Uno will never close down as long as Ali Mall is around. Both have been in existence for 25 years already.

Trattoria Uno
Trattoria Uno is never bustling-busy, at least in all the times I’ve eaten there, so I can be assured of a quiet, relaxed meal. Enter the place and you’ll either love it or hate it on sight: it’s charmingly quirky with old-fashioned lamps and straw wine holders dangling from the ceiling. One wall, dubbed the “Ospiti D’ Onore,” is where the famous sign their name after they’ve dined there. I don’t recognize any of the names however, since I’ve never really bothered to look hard enough. It’s the food I come for.

grissini bread
Here, you can choose to dine at the booths in the back or at the tables cloaked in red that make up the center of the room. You must order any of the breads here to start off your meal: the pane (p25), which is like an Italian pan de san, oval-shaped and dotted with soft, fresh bread crumbs; or the grissini (P25), which are warm, soft bread sticks. The latter arrives in a squat glass, 12 sticks of which I manage to inhale even before the main course is brought over. These are nothing but soft, wondrous wands of puffy goodness. There are extras that go with the bread, which include white cheese (P89), similar to mozzarella, but not quite; butter (P12); and olive oil (P25), but the extras are just … extras, and you don’t need them to have a good meal.

The menu is homey and familiar, and while all in Italian, these are names that you’d recognize: calamari, minestrone, crema de funghi, insalata mista, fritto misto, carpaccio, etc. There are appetizers (P99-P149), soups (P99-P129), salads(P99), seafood dishes (P239), chicken entrees (P239), and the stars — the pastas (P159-P179) and the pizzas (P195).

pasta Marinara
Aside from the usual Italian suspects such as Bolognese, carbonara, pesto, and lasagne, I come here for the pasta Marinara, shrimp and squid cooked gently in olive oil and garlic and tossed with spaghetti noodles. Subtle yet assertive, I like to sop up the extra olive oil with the pane bread.

pizza Margherita
Pizza Margherita is my favorite here, since I’m not a fan of pizzas weighted down with numerous toppings. Sliced fresh tomatoes, mozzarella slices, anchovies, and fresh basil leaves repose on a handmade pizza crust that’s cushion-soft in the middle and crunchy towards the edges.

There are also white and red wines which you can order by the glass (P59), half carafe (P229), and carafe (P379), but since I am not a drinker, I wouldn’t be able to tell you much about this. There are also coffee drinks and dessert, among them tiramisu, zuppa inglese, and cassata. I’ve never tried them because I always end up overloading on the grissini.


Trattoria Uno
3/F Ali Mall,
Araneta Center, Cubao, Q.C.
911-1567 / 911-3101, local 8248

15 Responses to “My best-kept Italian secret”

  • Was that the bread steaming up the cup? They look like fat fingers good for gobbling up. Wow. Another good reason to explore cubao!

    Thanks for the tip.


  • The first time I had spagetti al nero in Tratoria Uno was in 1980′s. Yum!
    I think Gaeta used to manage the kitchen before she put up Cibo.

    Have you tried Bellinis or Belinis restaurant inside Marikina Shoe Expo in Cubao? That’s another best-kept
    Italian secret.


  • Hmmm…it’s been forever since I’ve been to Ali Mall; thanks for giving me a reason to visit it again.


  • MAN!! i havent been there in ages! last time i was there was when i was 10 or something, mu dad even made me bring some markers so i can write on the wall.. i should go visit this place and see if my writing is still there or something. haha! thanks for writing this down. AMAZING!!!!!


  • Never even knew that there was an Italian restaurant in Ali Mall! Thanks for the tip :)


  • That pizza looks wonderful! Margerita is my favorite kind and I make it all the time. I’ve never had it with anchovies though, they scare me a bit. Don’t they overpower the pizza at all?


  • 25 years and i had no idea!!! my gosh… we REALLY have to hang out!


  • Thank you for the article on the restaurant.

    I tried the restaurant for the first time with friends on the Saturday of the long All Souls’ weekend before heading to an artists’ event at Cubao X (Marikina Show Expo).

    When we arrived there, there was only a couple there eating. Gershwin by contemporary artists was playing on CD.

    We found out later that the man from the couple owned the CD that was playing as he took it home with him and his partner when they left. I wished he had left the CD since it was replaced by the house music of instrumental pop tunes. =P

    So I guess you can bring your own CD for them to play. =)

    The pizza margherita was excellent. The crust really helped make that pizza.

    The pasta marinara’s olive oil is indeed lovely to sop up with their bread.

    They even provided us with a pesto dip for the bread when we requested.

    I shall surely return.


  • Wow! I’ll definitely go to Ali Mall one of these days to check out Trattoria! The food looks good.

    Bellini’s isn’t as great as it was touted to be (in the papers). But if you crave for some italian fast, ok na din.


  • Hi Lori! Been a fan of your blog since I dicovered it just before summer this year :) I must say, I find the way you write about food VERY enticing! I was browsing thru your old posts and I found this… brought me to memory lane, back to my childhood! I used to go here ALL THE TIME, maybe once week, when I was about 10 yrs old. This resto started my love for italian food. Nice to know it’s still around. I wonder though, is the place still clean? :)


  • I’d believe jay’s comment that gaita fores used to manage kitchen here before she set up cibo. the tagliata di manzo with rosemary and garlic tastes exactly the same as the one at cibo – but the last time i went to trattoria, it was cheaper than cibo’s version. sadly bellini’s eclipsed trattoria in our consciousness. best to return to remind myself of the early days of courtship between me and the hubby. – notsolillulu


  • this place is already close… so sad


  • Hi Lori,

    I miss Trattoria Uno as well. When I was taking painting in UP, an older classmate would bring me there. He introduced me to Al Nero and I had loved it ever since. I tried to replicate it but cannot ever conjure it back in my kitchen.

    So sad it is closed now.



  • A true blue Cubao kid knows where to find Trattoria Uno! I was saddened when they closed down, but to my delight, found that they are opening once again! It will be within Araneta Center still. Will take photos!


    Lori Reply:

    Antonette Maniquis –
    Trattoria Uno is reopening??! Oh wow, please let me know when that happens!


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