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 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.
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).
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 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.
THIS RESTAURANT IS NOW CLOSED.
3/F Ali Mall,
Araneta Center, Cubao, Q.C.
911-1567 / 911-3101, local 8248