La dolce vita in CebuBy Jaime Picornell
Philippine Daily Inquirer
“BIENVENUTI in Italia” was the theme of the latest fellowship of La Chaine des Rotisseurs’ Cebu chapter. It was held at Michelangelo Pizzeria, owned by Michel and Amparito Lhuillier. He heads La Chaine in the Philippines; she, the Cebu chapter.
Would we all fit in the rather small bistro beside the Gustavian? Oh yes, Michel and Amparito said, for above it is a large function room which for the occasion can accommodate 45 guests for a seated dinner.
The interiors are reminiscent of an Italian palazzo. There are ivory wood panels, rococo flourishes, gilt framed paintings, fine cabinets and crystal chandeliers.
And there’s Massimo La Magna, a charming Sicilian chef who has transported himself to Cebu for some time now. As he does daily for Michelangelo, for this occasion he churned out an impressive menu.
Special guests on this event were La Chaine’s Baili de Manille Federico Borromeo and his wife Josephine Borromeo. They have so many relatives in Cebu that every visit here is a homecoming.
They sat at the head table along with Michel and Amparito as well as general manager of Marco Polo Plaza Hotel Hans Hauri and his wife Bo, always so elegantly dressed.
Italian Prosecco made the pre-dinner reception quite lively. It was a brief time, for the evening’s menu offered a gastronomic spectrum to astound any gourmet. There’s more to Italian cuisine than just pasta, Massimo has always maintained.
La Chaine’s Cebu officers were in splendid attendance—Teresin Mendezona, Vivina Yrastorza, Dr. Nestor Alonso with wife Jojie, Winglip Chang, Al Evangelo, and L’Ordre Mondial’s Dave Sharpe with wife Joy.
It was nice to see Michel’s sister Angie L. Mathieu with son David Paulson, Honey Loop, Rosebud Sala, Carmen Campbell, Mariter Klepp, Vikki Hermosisima, Stella Bernabe, Meme and Rere Dakay with their brother Pierre Dakay.
Cebu’s top hotels were well-represented, like Radisson Blu’s GM Lyle Lewis with F/B director Geev Bahrampoori and executive chef Marco Amarone, Alegre resort’s GM Dottie Cronin, Alastair Granger of the Waterfront (Cebu City), Detlef and May Ernst of nearby House of Cebu, and Jonathan Nowell of Imperial Palace.
More: Michel and Bethilda Smith, Sven Serafica, Mike Hennessy, Marc Cools and his son Fabrice, chef Marco Bonello, Jean Martel and Jennie Aclan.
Every dish served drew oh’s and ah’s, M. Lhuillier Merlot was served with the antipasti—Parma ham, Sicilian Ratatouille and two versions of arancia, one with ham and cheese, the other with spinach.
The chickpea soup flavored with pancetta was divine, followed by a rectangular plate with three delights, the best of which was Tagliatelle with truffles. Main courses were swordfish with creamy pesto, and involtini meat rolls.
A fresh orange sherbet served as lead in to a cheese plate. Tiramisu was on the dessert plate as was a rich wedge of apricot jam cake.
Massimo had announced every item with his characteristic flair. He also presented a program of Sicilian dances, and a young man bearded to look like Pavarotti, to serenade the diners with arias and Neapolitan ditties.
“Massimo, you have done a wonderful job,” Michel complimented the chef at the end of the meal. There were citations for him and for the kitchen brigade which constituted quite a crowd for the souvenir photo.
The Michelangelo Pizzeria has been quite a success. A new outlet has opened on busy Escario Street in Cebu City. There is one in Mactan in front of Shangri-La, and there’s another one operating in Davao City.
Michel and Amparito have announced that the next event for La Chaine in Cebu is the Christmas gala set for Dec. 17 at Salon de España of Casino Español de Cebu. GM May Ocaba and F/B director Marina Codina are already working on the details to make it the highlight of the joyous season.
Coming on March 2013 is the 20th anniversary of La Chaine’s Cebu chapter. This will be at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa. Preparations have already started to make it one of the most memorable in years.
New Shangri-La GM
The Shangri-La in Mactan has a new general manager in the person of Juergen Doerr. He is no stranger to Cebu, having been the resident manager during the tenure of GM Tim Wright, whom he resembles in height and good looks.
The opportunity to renew acquaintance with Doerr came during a media lunch at the resort’s Tea of Spring Chinese restaurant. Chef Bun Boon Hoe prepared a fabulous menu, with some of the dishes flavored by exotic Chinese teas.
With Doerr were executive chef Joris Rycken, sales director Agnes Pacis, communications manager Mildred Amon and her assistant (for media relations) Casandra Cuevas.
From the august Cebu press came Flor Ynclino, Cookie Newman, Nestor Alonso, the vibrant Jude Bacalso, Alexis Yap, Jigs Arquiza, Quennie Bronce, Patty Taboada, Ed and Doyskie Buenaviaje.
It is that time of the year when hotels plan their Christmas tree-lighting events with great fanfare. At Mactan Shangri-La it will be the evening of Dec. 4 at the lobby. Invited to grace the occasion have been Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and LapuLapu City Mayor Paz Radaza.