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A true Italian trattoria rises in Silang, Cavite.

It has been less than a year since his retirement as president of Alphaland Corp., but there seems to be no stopping my brother-in-law, Mario 'Babes' Oreta.

Manong Babes, as far back as I can remember, insists that he was Italian in his past life, and that his real name was Mario Stefano Alessandro, from the small town of Corleone in Sicily.

'It has been my dream to put up a proper Italian restaurant where I can wine and dine friends and associates with the finest cuisine,' he said.

It all came to pass when, on a road trip to Monteluce, Aguinaldo Highway, Silang, Cavite, with Manong Babes' longtime friend, L'Opera chef Paolo Nesi, Paolo fell in love with the place. And that's how the jointly owned Trattoria Mario Mio was born-named after Manong Babes' eldest grandson Emilio 'Mio' Ferrer, and the youngest, his namesake Mario Oreta.

The two gentlemen who, when together, act like teenage boys, proudly said that theirs will be the best Italian restaurant in town.

My sister Babot said, 'I have never seen Babes so excited for a project. This is his happy place. I am happy to see his dream come true!'

Farm to table

Mario Mio is chef Paolo's first farm-to-table concept restaurant. After having had a hand in 30 restaurants in six different countries, it is in Silang where he can truly cook and relax, he said.

'This truly fascinates me-the open space that allows us to grow whatever we need. It is a restaurant focused on freshly picked greens and vegetables. Come here for pizza, fresh pasta and eggplant lasagna. Think free-range chickens, too.'

He added: 'What we offer is a family restaurant. We want it to be a place where one can come for a delicious Roma tomato-that we grow-stuffed with rice.

'Though we focus on healthy, there will be Angus beef on the menu, of course!'

Manong Babes and Paolo are working on their vegetable patch and herb garden. In time, they will serve suckling pigs sourced from those who practice safe farming methods.

Babes Oreta and Paolo Nesi in front of Trattoria Mario Mio

Cooking light

I look forward to their changing menus that will include produce at their prime, served closest to their natural state. This is chef Paolo's cooking style.

Revealing the flavors of a simple dish involves mastery.

'When I have a good ingredient, I think of how to prepare it with as little preparation as possible. I don't like to alter its taste,' said Chef Paolo. 'In Tuscany, we cook light. The secret is in the balancing of ingredients.'

After 25 years in the Philippines and with the success of L'Opera, has his cooking style remained authentic?

'My cooking has become more authentic because so many ingredients are now available to us, both imported and grown locally,' he said.

He attributes his good fortune to a sign hanging in his restaurant kitchens that says: 'I do not serve anything my mother will not eat!'

Chef Paolo's mother Anna, a traditional cook, argues with their neighbors on the proper way of making meat sauce. She owned a restaurant called Marcello, while her mother, Velia Pistolozzi, owned a trattoria near Siena. He attributes his culinary prowess to them.


He looks forward to welcoming 2018 at Mario Mio with fireworks and a traditional New Year's feast he believes his mother will approve of, especially his rendition of Zampone Con Lenticchie della Tradizione (Traditional New Year's Eve dish of stuffed pig's sausage served with lentils) and Panettone al Gelato E Salsa Allo Zabaione (Italian Christmas cake filled with homemade ice cream, Sabayon sauce and walnuts).

Next week, Manong Babes and Chef Paolo will launch their first batch of Calamancello, a spin-off of the classic Limoncello. All-natural, made with organic calamansi zest, the drink is the first of a planned natural line of liqueurs by Mario Mio.

The Calamancello is delicious. I had mine on ice! (Reserve your Calamancellos now; limited supply available, tel. 09171667332). It makes a perfect gift for those who have everything!
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Nov 30, 2017
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