When I was in New Jersey visiting my favorite uncle, I remember feeling ever so jealous of him taking a two-week vacation to Tuscany with my aunt and her family. Two weeks of non-stop eating and drinking, strolling around the vineyards in a fedora, khaki pants and a light buttoned shirt, imbibing the Godfather at the beautiful villa they would be staying at would make anyone green with envy.
I may not have gotten to romp around one of the most beautiful regions in Italy and work up a great tan, but I did get invited by the good folks at Zomato for dinner at Balducci Ristorante. The Italian restaurant at Serendra had a very specific cuisine, and that was the simple flavors of Tuscany. I may not be able to go there yet, but with an Italian Head Chef, I can very well pretend I ate there!
Balducci’s antipasto is a mouthful to say – Cestino di Parmigiana con Prosciutto di Parma, Pecorino e Melone. Basically, a Parmesan cheese basket filled with parma ham and fresh melon balls. Cheesy, salty, and sweet. I could especially appreciated the chopped up sun dried tomatoes on the side that gave the sharp little cheese cups some added sweetness.
Next up was the Crostini Misti, homemade Italian bread with three different toppings: anchovies with Mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, and pancetta with Pecorino cheese! My favorite was the toast with anchovies – the salt of the preserved fish was a sharp contrast to the soft, sweet Mozzarella.
The Il Fritto del Balducci looked like an Italian take on tempura. There were croquettes filled with mozzarella, fried zucchini, carrots, and what I think are anchovies, around a boat of fresh tomato sauce. Like tempura, they weren’t at all oily, and I found myself revisiting the croquettes more than once.
One of the highlights of my dinner was the Zuppa di Pomodoro con Sformatino di Ricotta. The thick tomato soup was very simple yet very rich with the ricotta cheese cake lending a nutty flavor to the dish. This seemed to be freshly puréed and not the disgusting gunk you get from a can.
After the soup, the guys at Balducci served a slew of handmade ravioli and tortellini dishes. Talk about a pasta overload!
The Ravioli Verdi di Spinaci e Ricotta al Pomodoro, was delectable, made with a spinach and ricotta cheese filling and covered in a fresh tomato sauce. If you have vegetarian friends (I’ll just go ahead and assume you an omnivore if you read the blog), this is a filling dish for them to enjoy.
Another variation, the Ravioli al Salmon, was incredible. The taste of fresh salmon filling really comes through in this dish, and this is complimented nicely with the thick, creamy sauce.
My favorite was the Tortelli d’Anatra al Profumi Di. These little pasta pockets were filled with minced duck in a rich truffle sauce. The distinct aroma of truffles wafted through the air and tickled my nose, whetting my appetite. This stuff is potent! And filling!
For the main course, a family-sized serving of Grigliata di Carne was served. Italian sausages, racks of lamb, Cornish hens and beef tenderloins are simply seasoned and cooked over a grill until medium rare. The flavors you get are uncomplicated and clean, with a side of smokey grilled vegetables to bring everything home.
To end our magnificent dinner, we enjoyed Balducci’s Panettone Con Gelato e Salsa al Mascarpone. The traditional sweet bread is filled with homemade Italian ice cream and topped with a light mascarpone sauce.
Towards the end of our meal, Head Chef Paolo Nesi dropped by to say hello and share his passion for Tuscan cuisine, as well as regaling us with stories of his trips around different continents on his motorbike. He also shared how most of his staff has been around since they first opened their first branch – something which is quite rare in the f&b industry. His secret? He treats everyone like family.
Family-style dinners are always better when you aren’t the one slaving away in the kitchen, so when you want to give your mom a break, it would be best to seek out Balducci Ristorante at Serendra and get treated to great food, a lovely wine selection, and chat with Chef Paolo about your love for all things Italian when he comes by to check on your table.
Balducci Ristorante is located at Space C 104 C/F Retail Area, Serendra, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig and is open from 10am – 10pm daily. For inquiries or to reserve a table, please call +63 2 856 0676; +63 2 856 0865.