My boyfriend’s choice cuisine is Italian. He had a favorite restaurant before along Ortigas avenue which, while being a quaint diner/joint, belied its hefty boasts of an Italian chef and authentic Italian ingredients. Sadly, the quality of the restaurant’s food had degraded over the years and left his tastebuds wanting for more.
I wanted to take him somewhere new for a change after dragging him to my preferred haunts whenever I was in town at least once a month. As it turns out, Va Bene became a fast favorite.
For starters, I’ve never met a friendlier waitstaff, who kept their cool even in the midst of an irate guest (she had a reservation and expected to be served immediately upon arrival — and that was when the restaurant just opened for the day). Their jovial manner and the cozy ambiance set the tone reminiscent of a meal straight out of Babette’s Feast (excellent movie by the way) — there are just some meals that seem capable of bringing about world peace. Now, it’s possible that I’m exaggerating. It’s also possible that you haven’t been to Va Bene.
Again, the interiors are nothing fancy, and the dining area is tiny — the restaurant gets so packed so quickly we were thankful to have been there right when the restaurant opened. The furnishings were simple — giving away the spotlight to the food and the company in tow.
The Beef Carpaccio salad I ordered turned out to be beef sushi done the Italian-way — paper-thin slices of raw beef that tore apart at the gentlest tug, drizzled with lemon vinaigrette, and topped with baby arugula greens, marinated celery, and mushrooms. We didn’t know it was raw yet (though I suspected it) and scarfed it down while we were waiting for the star of the show. If there were only one reason for me to eat at Va Bene again, this would be it.
My boyfriend loved the black-ink pasta with seafood marinara — which now replaced the gamberetti pasta at that old restaurant as his favorite dish. Thanks to that dish, I now know what al dente meansexactly, and why boxed pasta can’t quite compare to the ones made fresh at the restaurant.
It was one of my favorite meals ever. My boyfriend kept raving about the pasta with each bite, and we were happy to be in each other’s company. A meal like that can really make you count your blessings. I suppose that’s why Italian meals are always typically family affairs the way they are so often depicted in literature and movies — there could be no better pairing than loved ones and good food. Makes you realize that life is, really, va bene.
(Not pictured — the canneloni, which wasn’t a must-try for me. You know my favorite canneloni ever, just because we’re already on the topic? Bigby’s. I only tried it once before they discontinued serving it, which is a shame.)