It's all about family at L'Opera By Franco Lacson (BRAVO Filipino: The Lifestyle and Culture Magazine for today's generation)
The delicious aroma of food travelled from the kitchen to the dining hall as I sat with the tag team of Chef Luciano Paolo Nesi and his daughter Angelica. They were taking advantage of the temporary lull, which were few, to experiment with new dishes to add to the menu.
"Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I get this feeling of wanting to create something. I don know where it comes from but that's how most of the dishes we serve here have come into being," Paolo said.
Paolo hails from Tuscany, Italy where he started his career as a Chef and Restaurateur. His was a family embedded in the food business and he fondly remembers helping his mother in the kitchen as a young boy.
"I started way down. I cleaned pots and pans, which were sometimes so big that I could fit in them for my mother. Then I worked as a waiter when I was around twelve and I gradually made my way up." he recalled.
The years went by and the twelve-year old boy who waited tables and peeked at the kitchen while chefs did their magic became a chef himself and opened his own restaurants. The business brought him all over the world until he landed on our side of the planet.
Like a lot o things in his life, his arrival to open the first L;Opera here in 1994 was unplanned and was an outcome of a long chain of events. After following his wife to the Philippines, he saw that our country lacked an authentic Italian dining experience. He opened his restaurant in the country and gave Flipino diners something new. It was not long before it gained faithful patrons, otherwise known as "suki" in Filipino.
The homey vibe and the superb dishes that were able to tickle Filipino taste buds turned a lot of heads. But it was the similarities between Paolo's Italian values and the Filipino values that clinched the deal.
"Much like Filipino culture, the family is the center of Italian cultue. I think this similarity allowed us to form a bond with our patrons," said Angelica who was raised in the Philippines, admitting that as toddler, she would only eat pancit.
"Filipinos are adventurous when it comes to eating. That's what separates this market from the rest. In some countries, they only eat chicken if its prepared the way their grandmother did. When Filipinos dine out, they look for something new and fresh. And that's the challenge," Paolo said.
Best sellers for L'Opera Ristorante Italiano include spaghetti in fresh lobster sauce and baked US Prime beef tenderloin in trufle sauce. Available on special days of every month, it is also one of the few restaurants that serve authentic Angus beef, served fresh and cut into perfection. It boasts of a wide selection of pasta and seafood dishes, as well as scrumptious desserts.
As I chatted with Paolo and Angelica, a group of customers entered the resturant. I got a demonstration of how close Paolo knows his customers, greeting each one by name and exchanging pleasantries that one would see between close relatives.
"Running a restaurant is a science. There is more to it than food. The restaurant is our home, the staff is our family, and the customers are our guests," Paolo explained.
This philosophy shows in the way the restaurant is operated, and it might just be the reason why his customers keep coming back. For Filipinos, nothing beats having a meal with family, an atmosphere that Paolo and the staff of L'Opera provide day in and day out.
It's all about family at L'OPERA by Frnco Lacson, Photos by Bong Regala
BRAVO Filipino (The lifestyle and culture magazine for today's generation)
Volujme 2 No. 8