A whiff of Italy in Dumaguete

Pasta King is now open in Dumaguete City. Finally. I don’t know when they started to open, but I was waiting for them to open for like, ages. It was Friday night and a friend of mine wanted to eat in Chin Loong (a Chinese restaurant) when we passed by Pasta King. When I saw the open doors and the bright lights, I immediately pulled my friend inside (I didn’t feel like eating Chinese anyway).

When we stepped in, most of the tables were already occupied (it was a Friday evening, after all). The place was bustling. Waitresses in yellow T-shirt, shorts and sneakers were flitting from one table to another. More customers were walking in behind us. We immediately snagged an empty table near the cashier when a foreigner (I assume he was one of the owners) walked up and placed two menus on our table.

Now, I have to admit. I’m not that familiar with Italian dishes. I love pasta, but my education on cusina italiana  is limited to carbonara, spaghetti, and pizza. Although I tried my hand on cooking Spaghetti Bolognese once. But I don’t know if the outcome was how it was supposed to taste.

So I chose to order for my first meal in Pasta King, the Spaghetti alla Bolognese (Meat Ragu Sauce). I wanted a comparison to how mine tasted. My friend ordered Polpette de Came (Italian Hamburger with BBQ Sauce) paired with Patate al Forno (Oven Roasted Potatoes) as the side dish.

Don’t you just love how Italian dishes sound delicious already?

According to our waitress, the spaghetti dishes take only about 5 minutes to be served. Actually, I initially asked for Fettucine con Polo (with Breast of Chicken in Cream Sauce) but she said that would take about 10 to 15 minutes. One reason why I switched to Spaghetti alla Bolgnese instead.

As we waited for our orders, I checked out the restaurant interior, which was a combination of wood and steel. A blown-up photo of former US President Ronald Regan accented a panel dividing the eating area from the restrooms. Similar photos of other known personalities (I recognized Muhammad Ali behind the cashier) were also plastered on the walls of the main dining area. The kitchen area is open; you can see the kitchen staff going about preparing food. The mood is, overall, friendly and cozy – from the muted lighting to the dark color palette.

I expected the decoration to be more charmingly Italian, like paintings or pictures of vineyards and a color palette of cream and red wine. I was looking forward to furnishings that would conjure Tuscany  and Sicily. But these were sadly missing, as the owners opted for a more simple and understated decor. I  hope they would also utilize the surrounding area outside the restaurant, maybe set up tables and chairs under umbrellas, for customers to dine cenare al fresco. 

Pasta King is jointly owned by German Peter Wolfgang Schlicht, a foodie and traveler who’s been to wine regions in Germany, Italy, France and Australia, and Italian chef Andreino De Santis, who happens to be the godson of Alfredo Di Lelio (the Alfredo who invented Fettucine Alfredo). According to their website, Chef de Santis has cooked for celebrities like Frank Sinatra and former US presidents like Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon (which explains the photos on the walls). You can read more about him here. I can’t believe a chef of his stature has chosen to “semi-retire” in our small city.

When our orders arrived, they were, as I guessed, in portions bigger than Filipinos are used to (think Gabby’s Bistro, where one order is like two meals combined). My bolognese (pictured on the left below) looked nothing like the one I cooked. Fortunately, it tasted nothing like it, too!

I’m not a food writer nor have I tasted authentic Italian cuisine before. All I know is that rich flavors burst in my mouth when I forked in my first taste of their Spaghetti  alla Bolognese. It wasn’t too sweet (the way Filipinos like their spaghetti) nor was it too garlicky. It was flavorful that I kept eating and eating until there was nothing left on my plate! Diet be darned.

I couldn’t help but taste my friend’s order of Italian burger. It was crisp on the outside, but oh so chewy and juicy on the inside. (How do they do that?! Whenever I fry burger patties, I could never come up with that crisp-yet-juicy combo.) The taste is bold, rich, and heavy. This is one meat you’ll want to pair with red wine.

If you need more cheese or want a little more heat on your dish, just let one of their perky waitresses know and they’ll bring over a bowl of cheese which they will spoon over your pasta or ground pepper right on your plate.

Proof of the pasta is in how empty the plate is after the eating, don’t you agree?

We cleaned all that up with a cup of Rocky Road gelato topped with a cherry. My friend and a reliable news source, Miss Connie (below, right), is obviously smitten by it.

Will I be going back to eat there? A resounding yes! This is as close to authentic delizioso Italian food as I can get. Plus their prices are reasonable considering that this is fine-dining Italian cuisine. I’d really like to go through their entire menu, specials, and wine list (of course, only during paydays!). My favorite wine is Lambrusco, so I’ll get myself a glass of that in my next visit.

Pasta King, 5 Dr. V. Locsin Street, Dumaguete City | Website | Tel. Nos. 421-0865 | PastaKingAsia@gmail.com 

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post. Reviews and opinion posted here are my own and do not reflect that of the agencies I work for.

11 thoughts on “A whiff of Italy in Dumaguete

    We have the pleasure to tell you the history of our grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio, creator of this recipe in the world known.
    Alfredo di Lelio opened the restaurant “Alfredo” in Rome nel 1914, after leaving his first restaurant run by his mother Angelina Rose Square (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi). In this local spread the fame, first to Rome and then in the world, of “fettuccine all’Alfredo”. In 1943, during the war, Di Lelio gave the local to his collaborators.
    In 1950 Alfredo Di Lelio decided to reopen with his son Armando (Alfredo II) his restaurant in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 “Il Vero Alfredo”, which is now managed by his nephews Alfredo (same name of grandfather) and Ines (the same name of his grandmother, wife of Alfredo Di Lelio, who were dedicated to the noodles).
    In conclusion, the restaurant of Piazza Augusto Imperatore is following the family tradition of Alfredo Di Lelio and of his notes noodles (see also the site of “Il Vero Alfredo” http://www.alfredo-roma.it/).
    We must clarify that other restaurants “Alfredo” in Rome and in Italy do not belong to the family tradition of “Il Vero Alfredo” of Piazza Augusto Imperatore in Rome.

    Best regards Alfredo e Ines Di Lelio

  2. I do admit, that my experience at Pasta King was rather poor. That had not much to do with Italian cuisine. Taking the sweetness out of a dish does not make it Italian.
    All dishes were rather bland. I missed any kind of freshness and the typical Italian herbs. Spaghetti are from Lee Plaza, what is a shame that they are not home-made, sausages as well (or from Swiss Deli in Davao).
    Value for money is ok but overall very disappointed with the dishes, considering there are real foreign chefs behind.
    anyway, if one can sell you Chin Loong as chinese (is there any chinese dish on the menu ?) they surely can sell you Pasta King as Italian.

  3. Flavors are tweaked to Filipino taste and Italian American. The other more authentically Italian resto in Dumaguete could not draw in the masa and has morphed into an internet cafe.

  4. would love to come to Dumaguete just to experience chef Andreino’s cuisine. your gain is our loss here in California. Andreino is the king of all pasta! not to mention every other dish he prepares.

    1. Yes, do drop by when you come back and let me know if you like their food as much as I did. I haven’t been back to Pasta King for quite some time now though, ever since I started working in Cebu. 😦

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