I got a surprise email last week from my friend from college, Shirley, whom I hadn’t seen in almost a year. Out of the blue she proposed we get some people together for eating and drinking. I’m easy so I immediately agreed to round up our friends from UP days and reserve at my favorite pasta place, Va Bene. This unpretentious little restaurant at the second floor of the Petron gas station just outside Dasmarinas Village’s EDSA gate is run by Massimo Veronesi together with his wife Carolyn. Chef Massimo used to run the Peninsula Manila’s Mi Piace Italian restaurant which closed in 2009.
Va Bene translates as “OK” but this place is definitely more than OK. Some of the things I love here are the Polpette – meatballs, Polipo- a very bright salad of thinly sliced octopus, practically anything on special, and above all – the pasta! All of it fresh, nothing from a box. If you need to carbo load, there is no more delicious place than Va Bene to do it in. I think I’ve tried all the pasta dishes here and it’s all to die for. But there are, of course, some worth dying for more than others. The lamb with pappardelle, the squid ink, the lobster capellacci and even the simple gnocchi in a gorgonzola walnut sauce are divine. The flavors here are bold and unapologetic. There is no mistaking what ingredients go into the dish. It can come close to over the top sometimes so the best strategy is to order several dishes to share so you can reset your palate every now and then. The desserts are not a strong suit but will do the job if you don’t want to go looking for sweets somewhere else.
I wasn’t able to take too many good pictures as all the guys I was with have pretty voracious appetites. No concessions are given to bloggers with this group so all you’re getting with these pictures is what happened to be available in front of me.
Naturally we also had some wine. That’s another reason I love this place. Corkage is waived for the first 5 bottles you bring. That should be more than enough for even the most dedicated tippler. If you are bringing serious wine, it would be best to bring your own serious wine glasses as well since the house stemware is built for durability rather than to show off a fine vintage.
To go with our food we started off with a magnum of Corte Riva Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 which was already soft and approachable but still had lots of primary dark fruit flavors.
This was followed by an appropriate Italian wine, Ceretto’s Barolo Zonchera 2006. Perhaps a mistake to serve this after the Napa as it can’t compete in weight but the mushroom/truffle aroma certainly made up for that.
Lastly we had a fine Chinon from the house of Guy Saget, a medium-bodied, youthful, and soft Marie de Beauregard Chinon 2010, which was rated quite highly by Wine Spectator.
There are a couple of drawbacks when dining in a gas station. Parking is a perennial problem here. And the restroom is on the first floor and has to be shared by the gas station and all the other tenants. The restaurant also tends to be noisy when full (which is nearly every night), and when it’s full, it might be difficult navigating around as the space is pretty tight. But if you are willing to overlook these minor inconveniences, it’s hard to beat the great cooking that happens here.
Va Bene Pasta Deli is located at 2nd Floor, Petron Gas Station, EDSA corner Pasay Road, Dasmarinas, Makati City. Open Tuesday to Sunday. Reservations highly recommended. Tel 5569442