Death Row Food: Va Bene Pasta Deli

If I were asked to pick only a single cuisine that I would eat for the rest of my life, it would be, without second thought, Italian. I find that this cuisine is synonymous to “comfort food”: bundles of noodles laden with sauces of varying flavors—some spicy, some herby, some sweet—oftentimes made with the simplest of ingredients yet always comes out satisfying; dough that’s been oven-kissed, then showered with meats, cheeses, and fresh produce guaranteed to satiate any craving; desserts that favor indulgence over daintiness. Yes, if I were in death row and I had to pick my last meal, Italian would be it.

I’ve been meaning to try Va Bene Pasta Deli in Makati ever since I stumbled upon Mr. Delicious’ blog, but it was only until they opened in BGC that I finally got to do so. “To me there is only one choice now”, he wrote, and I found it hard to believe because of my obsession with the charming, endearing Bellini’s in Cubao. But after reading a few other reviews from the bloggers I trust, my curiosity with Va Bene and Chef Massimo Veronesi’s fresh pasta grew even more, consuming my daily whims, making me confuse human hair with capellini.

And so one night, my pasta-loving, truffle-addicted friends and I assailed BGC to check out what is supposedly the best Italian restaurant in Manila (in the country?). What greeted me was far from the usual Italian “gimmick”: no checked cloths, no grapevines, no murals and paintings, no brick walls and dramatic lighting. Va Bene in BGC looked like an ordinary cafeteria, a small space with a jumble of mismatched chairs and tables, with a façade that somehow has a convenience-store feel, but with a motif I instantly loved because it had the colors of my blog: black, orange, and white. I know that it’s no way to measure a restaurant, but I just felt the need to mention it because it was … different.

The management was nice enough to seat us near the wall, where there were power outlets. Some of us still had work to do so we had to bring laptops and all (but don’t tell that to our bosses!). The server handed us the menu, and, after studying it, we were unable to decide so we just got one of each non-ravioli pastas, one ravioli dish, soup, two mains, and an extra mushroom risotto, which was part of the day’s special.

While waiting for our food, we were served some complimentary crusty bread with a dip made of chopped tomatoes, basil, parmesan, and olive oil. The dip was so addicting, I must have eaten an entire platter by myself. I was trying very hard not to because I didn’t want to get full, but obviously I failed in doing so as we had multiple refills.

The Zuppa (PhP299) then arrived, filling our noses with the unmistakable scent of truffle. The creamy, earthy puree of Portobello mushrooms, topped with truffle oil as well as chopped and powdered porcini, was stupefyingly delicious. This is one starter I grazed over and didn’t want to end.

Next came the Salmon Potato Ravioli (PhP440): six pieces of salmon-filled ravioli wrapped in a vodka tomato cream sauce. This one was tasty but I found it to be a bit too heavy because of the potato. The quality of the ravioli, however, reminded me of the ones I tried and enjoyed at Balducci some time back.

Aside from the ravioli, Va Bene’s pasta selections were pretty … humble (there were only three choices) but I would think having fewer high-quality options is better than boasting of a ten-page menu composed of shitty dishes. The Papardelle (PhP460) heralded what kind of feast lies ahead—this dish made of 12-hour braised lamb shanks, Italian sausage, tomatoes and black olives was a stunner! The plate overflows with the flavor of meats complementing the wide noodles. If you like meaty pasta dishes like bolognese and ragu, you must order this.

If you like truffle or cream-based pasta, get the Organic Eggs Tagliatelle (PhP440). Va Bene’s freshly-made tagliatelle accentuates the sauce composed of Portobello mushrooms, white wine, and mushroom cream. I must say the noodles are so good! I remember a friend telling me I must try Va Bene’s truffle pasta—well, here it is! Thanks for the recommendation, I enjoyed this one very much! It’s definitely in my top truffle pasta dishes list.

However, my favorite pasta for the night was the Black Ink Tagliolini (PhP440). Forget the resemblance to kare-kare (or any other creative thing you could think of)—this dish is THE BOMB. Teeth stains are not a problem because the squid ink has been incorporated into the noodle itself before being cooked; after which, prawns, squid rings, and fish fillets are tossed into a marinara and light tomato cream sauce. This creation is creamy and slightly sour—and highly addictive. I swear I haven’t eaten anything like it.

By the time we finished four platefuls, the nearby table was already throwing awkward glances to our direction (“those gluttons!”), so imagine how wide their eyes went when two more dishes were brought in! The 12-Hours Braised Veal Cheeks (PhP890): two tiny, tender, flavorful veal cheeks, positioned atop a bed of vegetables, and served with some mashed potatoes and a delicate chicken egg raviolo. The veal cheeks were incredibly delicious (how I wish there were more of them!); the raviolo contained shredded chicken meat and an egg that oozed at the slightest prod of a fork. Damn this dish.

The Truffle-Crusted Jumbo Scallops (PhP888), on the other hand, were two big perfect scallops—made even more mind-blowing by truffle—served on top of a creamy, insanely delicious pumpkin risotto. At this point, Va Bene had impressed me so much I couldn’t even talk.

For good measure, we even ordered an extra Mushroom Risotto (PhP750part of the day’s specials), which came topped with mushroom slices, carrots, zucchini and fucking veal jus. It took all of my energies to maintain my dignity and not eat like a mongrel!

We were so full after all those carbs—but then the manager approached us and told us she would be giving us free shots of limoncello! She must have seen all the food we ate (there were only 5 of us) and felt the need to give us a digestif. Thank you, Va Bene! Also, thanks to that limoncello shot, I had a few inches freed up for dessert, LOL! So I ordered the Traditional Italian Tiramisu (PhP280 – espresso, amaretti cookie, Kahlua, mascarpone, shaved dark chocolate) for everyone to share, which was simply the perfect way to end this meal. I loved the chunks of chocolate hidden beneath the cheese.

I came to Va Bene with very high expectations and I was so happy not be let down. I think that’s one of the best feelings in the world—when everything you’ve been looking forward to is met, and at Va Bene, I would say, even surpassed. I can’t say it’s my favorite Italian restaurant right now (the price point is a bit on the expensive side) but indeed it has excellent dishes, which, if placed head-to-head with those of other restaurants, would easily emerge victorious. Thus, I’m reserving Va Bene for more special occasions, because exquisite food like this deserve special reasons.

Oh, and remind me to hire Chef Massimo if I become one of the bad guys.

Va Bene Pasta Deli
3/F Central Cinemas, Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
12:00PM - 2:30PM; 6:00PM - 11:00PM
Budget: around PhP1,000/head

What's your favorite Italian restaurant? If you were in death row, what will be your last meal request?

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  1. Loved Va Bene too! I've only tried 2 of their pastas, the tagliatelle and pappardelle, but I'm hooked! Will definitely try the black ink tagliolini next time, along with the veal cheeks and hopefully (if the tummy can still take it), their risotto. :)

    Anyway, liking your blog a lot! Keep it up! ^_^

  2. Hey Sumi! Yes, their pasta is addicting. Try the scallops with risotto when you go back! Thanks for the compliment and for dropping by!


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