Trattoria da Gianni pays tribute to the memory of their patriarch, Gianni Guidicelli–and to two longtime househelp who learned all the family recipes
Cebu’s newest neighborhood eatery is Trattoria da Gianni, owned and run by the Guidicelli family. Yes, it’s that Guidicelli—actor-singer, triathlete and Sun Life endorser Matteo Guidicelli.
The casual fare Italian restaurant may have opened its doors only two weeks ago, but it’s been a full house every day since. Matteo’s father Gianluca and sister Giorgia, who are running it, could not be more proud, or overwhelmed.
“It’s been crazy. We’re always full for lunch and dinner, and it’s been super busy. We’ve just been on the go since, but every day, small things are falling into place so we can breathe more and more,” said Giorgia, in between glances at the tables to see if anybody needs something.
Trattoria da Gianni is the Guidicellis’ way of honoring the memory of their patriarch, Gianni Guidicelli, who passed away last year.
“My father Gianni loved to eat,” Gianluca wistfully recalled, “and he always wanted to open a restaurant. Despite all the Italian restaurants in town, he always said there was nothing like home-cooked food. We created Trattoria da Gianni for him, but we also did it to show our gratitude to two of our helpers, Antonia Borbon and Jean Hipuna, who have been with our family for over two decades.
“The two ladies are our business partners in this restaurant. They manage the kitchen since they learned all the recipes from my father and my mother Franca. Trattoria da Gianni is basically us opening our kitchen to help spread my father’s love for food.”
Trattoria da Gianni, which translates to “a small Italian restaurant by Gianni,” is casual, cozy and unpretentious, and dining there is like dining at an Italian friend’s home. You get a warm welcome, and the food is the center of attention.
The dishes are simple, straightforward and downright delicious. There’s a variety of fresh salads, hearty soups, traditional Italian cold cuts and cured meats, Italian cheeses and fresh mozzarella.
One of the specialties is the bruschetta, with over 10 different toppings to choose from, including taleggio cheese with apricots, ricotta cheese with fresh rosemary and honey, and mango with mozzarella and white onion. These make for delicious vegetarian appetizers, while the bruschetta with parma ham, figs and fresh ricotta is a favorite among meat lovers.
The fresh pastas with homemade sauces are dreamy, especially the fresh lasagna and the ragu della nonna, spaghetti with tomato meat sauce, and parmiggiano reggiano, which was Gianni’s personal favorite. These aren’t on the menu, but you can always ask if there is fresh pasta available, we learned from Giorgia.
“My ultimate favorite dish is pasta with just plain tomato sauce. It’s not on the menu but the kitchen can always make it,” Giorgia revealed. “Please always ask what we have on special. On Mondays and Tuesdays, we have meat, while on Wednesdays and Thursdays, it’s fish. We make gnocchi on Thursdays, and fresh pasta on weekends. So far, we’ve had cotoletta alla bolognese (breaded pork or chicken with cooked ham, provolone cheese and fresh tomato sauce), frittura mista di pesce (mixed fried fish), penne amatriciana (guanciale, pecorino cheese and tomato) and vongole on special, and they were sold out before the end of the evening.”
The tiramisu is the star of their dessert menu, and we knew we ordered the right thing when it was served in all its full, luscious glory.
“Our tiramisu is very different,” said Giorgia. “You either love it or you hate it. Real Italian tiramisu, or at least the tiramisu we’ve eaten since we were babies, is more wet and runny, and that’s how a tiramisu is supposed to be.”
Family of triathletes
Completely stuffed from the meal, we asked Giorgia how her whole family stays so fit if every day was like a feast for them, until we learned that they are a family of triathletes.
“Everyone except my mom, Glenna, is a triathlete. It started with my dad. He used to weigh 240 lb. One day in 2009, he just said, ‘This is ridiculous, I need to do something,’ so he started running. I’ve always played sports since I was a kid but in 2012, we both ran the Milo Marathon, and he hasn’t stopped then. He’s pretty persistent like that. Matteo started doing triathlons in 2010 and my youngest brother, Paolo, who is 9, started in 2013.”
The family has a team called Forza (forza means strong in Italian), and they partnered with Ford last year.
“We started Forza as a foundation early last year,” added Giorgia. “I had just gotten back from school, and we wanted more stability in our team, and we also wanted to give back to athletes who have potential. We travel when we can to race, but right now, I think I have my hands full with the restaurant.”
Trattoria da Gianni is the kind of restaurant you keep going back to because, like an Italian friend’s home, you can never get enough of home-cooked food made with love.
Trattoria da Gianni is at Crossroads Mall in Banilad, Cebu City. Current business hours are 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. daily. For information and inquiries, contact 0977-8422786. For updates, visit www.facebook.com/trattoriadagiannicebu and Instagram @trattoriadagianni.