CULTURAL POTPOURRI| Chef Annie’s Pastanni Italian Street Food

GOODNESS, but food is such a powerful Pinoy unifier.  I’ve been dining out with relatives and friends; and we are truly blessed withsuch good exposure in savouring Davao City’s diverse food scene.  And my friends, especially those visiting from Manila, are truly amazed with Davao’s contemporary culinary offerings—from haute cuisine offered in hotels, to juicy burgers and delicious pizzas, to dear Olive Puentespina’s famous Malagos cheeses and wines, to delightful carinderia staples.  Indeed, Davao has gone a long way in its culinary evolution.  Never in the history of the city has there been so many restaurants and culinary institutes of learning dotting the bustling foodscape.  Davao City, without doubt, has transformed itself so remarkably from its former distinction as an ihaw-ihaw republic (thanks to the pioneering Harana Restaurant of the Lizadas) to becoming the culinary arts centre for the Mindanao region.  International fare plus impressive wines are now the come-on of the city’s hot restos.

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PASTANNI at SM Lanang Premier (fronting BDO)

Another classic culinary addition to comprise the vast city foodscape is Pastanni (fronting Banco de Oro on the ground floor of SM Lanang Premier) of chef extraordinaire Annie Cacho-Garcia.  “Pastanni is my way of reaching out to a wider market who craves for Italian food with an acceptable price range,” she said as she welcomed her guests comprised of family, relatives, close friends and highly valued clients to her store’s happy opening last March 26, 2017, a bright Wednesday afternoon.

     “My husband, Raffy Garcia, and I had our soft opening last week. Thanks goodness that by word of mouth alone, we have managed to get a good patronage including students enjoying their long vacation and professionals working in the vicinity of SM Lanang.  Even Davao’s restaurant owners and known gourmands are among our patrons who would drop by to wish us good luck.  I am grateful to everyone,” chef Annie, looking lovely in her latest hairdo, told this writer.  I shared a table with DATA President Gachi Gatchalian and the hardworking socialite, Marissa Salonga-Tionko.  Oh boy, there were a lot of friends who dropped by and we shared the usual besos y abrazos plus, of course, Annie’s delightful Italian flavors.

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RALPH Garcia and family plus Michael E. Dakudao

       Indeed, chef Annie focuses on flavors from Italy and even the Mediterranean but without forgetting the intricacies of the Davaoeno taste.  At Pastanni, diners can expect nothing less than an array of qualityfood cooked with the best ingredients.  Nothing satisfies chef Annie than sharing her love for Italian food with  Davaoenos of all ages.  “My mom loves to cook pasta that’s why the restaurant is called Pastanni; and she wants to share her version of the classic Italian street food with everybody.  I am hoping that Pastanni will stir an Italian culinary revolution right here in bustling Davao City,” said chef Annie’s handsome, Manila-based unico hijo, Gerald Cacho Tuazon, with a smile.

       Chef Annie has made Italian cuisine a mainstay in the Davao dining scene first with her Ristorante Spirale in Damosa and then with her Pastanni in Abreeza followed by the latest Pastanni in SM Lanang Premier.  Pastanni somehow evokes the warm and comely mood of a modern European café.  The food servers and cashier at SM Lanang Premier smile more, are more welcoming, and more attentive than those in Pastanni Abreeza.  I hope this continues even when the Garcia couple are not around to personally supervise.

      “Pastanni is more challenging in terms of menu development as I had to tweak my menu a bit.  We serve soups, appetizers, salads, pastas, pizzas, sandwiches, and main courses of chicken, pork, beef and fish.  Our popular risotto bowls plus desserts and pastries to end the meal are quite popular.  In Pastanni, we made our pasta choices more Filipino which means that the pasta sauces are adjusted to suit that taste of the target market.  Oh yes, we’ve come up with a yummier Italian pasta.  That only means making truly Italian-Pinoy version.  For piada, which is Italian for flat bread, we have several choices for diners to choose from.  These are thin dough with risotto and other fillings like beef, chicken, pork, tuna or vegetables which are then grilled,” chef Annie explained adding, “We have created a place that is more relaxing and complete with the street scene feel making Pastanni more casual and inviting to everybody.  Whether you are in a hurry or you have the luxury of time to enjoy Italian street food, then Pastanni is the right place for you.”

      Chef Annie made sure to complete the Davaoenos’ Italian street food experience with her other menu choices like salads of fresh veggies, cheeses, your salad dressing choice plus your topping choice of roast beef, grilled chicken, roast pork belly and tuna tetrazzini.  Her rich risotto consists of sautéed Italian rice with egg, tomato, cheese plus your choice filling of roast beef with garlic yoghurt, grilled chicken with Ceasar salad dressing, roast pork belly with balsamic vinegar, tuna tetrazzini with pesto or grilled veggies with red pesto.  Not to fail to mention her line up of Italian desserts like cannoli chips with vanilla or chocolate custard dips, chocolate truffle balls, to mention some.  Chef Annie’s Italian tarts and cakes, as experienced from her Ristorante Spirale, are truly the agony and ecstasy of diabetics and the sweet-toothed.  After all, chef Annie Cacho-Garcia studied Hotel and Restaurant Management for three years at the prestigious and expensive Ecole de Roche in Switzerland plus an additional year at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, USA.  This charming Ilongga came to live in Davao City in 2008.

     Do make time for a new culinary adventure in Davao City.  Head straight to Pastanni at SM Lanang Premier.

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