Thanks to Alicia, a regular Market Manila reader and consummate foodie, who recently suggested I check out Galileo Enoteca, a wonderful small Italian wine merchant and deli tucked away on a small side street in Mandaluyong. Without the tip, there is little chance of my dropping in on them out of the blue. Galileo Enoteca sells Italian wine and deli items as well as pasta, flour, canned tomatoes and other goods. On our first visit, I was thrilled to find Italian â€œ00â€ flour for pasta, anchovies, Grana Padano (that hard cheese that is much less costly than Parmigiano Reggiano), gorgonzola, pancetta, prosciutto San Daniele, canned Plum tomatoes, etc. I also noticed that there were tables set up for lunch and dinnerâ€¦
Owned by Gaetano Vitrano, an Italian whose daughter Vanessa manages the shop, the Enoteca is best described as having a â€œsoul.â€ Opened just weeks ago (though they moved from a much smaller location near the Mandaluyong City Hall), the owners are on the premises and you see and feel the difference. There is a genuine interest in the wine, and Gaetano, if there, can discuss the pros and cons of a particular bottle, and he is familiar with a number of the producers or vineyards. The deli counter and shelves, though modestly stocked, have the stuff I would want at an Italian deliâ€¦ though nice mozzarellas, more types of risotto rice, etc. are always hoped for. We sampled a superb Castelmagno cheese, which is an artisanal cheese made from cows, sheep or goats milk (or a mixture of all three) made high in the mountains between the towns of Castelmagno, Pradleves e Monterosso Grana in the Cuneo Province of Italy. The cheese is made by hand then aged for months in natural grottos found in the mountains. It is one of Italyâ€™s rarest cheeses because so little is made. It was superb and I am thrilled to have tried it. And what might best go with the dry hard cheese if you were feeling extravagant? Perhaps a bottle of Brunello, which the Enoteca carries as well. We tried it with this more modest bottle of wine that was an interesting pairing as well.
Intrigued by the place, we returned the very next day to try their food (sorry, I forgot my camera). Warning: this is not fine dining with an ambitious menu. It is a very simple but wonderful value proposition that I will return to often. The concept is simpleâ€¦ start with a platter of wonderful cold cuts and cheese, have a modest but appropriate portion of pasta, perhaps a glass of wine or a softdrink, all for a fixed price of PHP350 a head!!! Fantastic. Our platter had Italian ham, salami, prosciutto san daniele, possibly a mortadella (not sure) and chunks of Grana Padano that got more aromatic and more delicious as it warmed up. There were three choices of pasta for the day (they change often) and we ordered all three on our table to taste everythingâ€¦ a delicious penne with gorgonzola cheese that was just the right sharpness yet had some creaminess to it at well. A second pasta was an eggplant and tomato sauce on spaghetti cooked just right (firm not hard). And finally, a Bolognese served with rigatoni that was good but I found the noodles a bit too al dente. A nice salad would have made this the perfect meal. This is my kind of restaurant, nothing pretentious, just good value on solid basic food.
Dining is done on long communal tables (unless you are six in which case you can take whole tables) in several wine chambers as though you are in a cellar. Long benches can be tough on the the butt but you will survive. This is a great place for a family get together or a tucked away date that wonâ€™t break the bank. If you like Italian food, recognize terrific value and want a little place with soulâ€¦head over to Galileo Enoteca soon before the chi-chi crowd figures this out and packs it to the gills. If this place were around the corner from where I lived I could eat there 2-3 times a month! Galileo Enoteca is located at 80 Calbayog Street corner Malinao Street in Mandaluyong. Telephone 534-4633 and ask for directions.