Honestly, I don’t know how to start this post without sounding too negative at once, but I cannot sugarcoat things and pretend that we had a nice experience dining at Bellini’s Italian Restaurant in Cubao Expo (formerly Marikina Shoe Expo). Bellini’s is totally disappointing! There, I said it—out loud, though virtually, to the world.
Anyway, the reason why we chose Bellini’s for lunch last Thursday was that there’s not many unique and specialty restaurants near SM Cubao, where we had meetings the entire day. My boss checked FourSquare and found Bellini’s. A mix of good and bad reviews were shared by customers through blogs. What’s up with the inconsistency? Ah, maybe timing is an important factor. If it’s so then our timing was definitely the worst. You’ll learn why below.
Review of Bellini’s Italian Restaurant (Cubao Expo, Quezon City)
No doubt, the ambiance in Bellini’s was enchanting, warm and fancy. Oozing with personality, the three separated dining areas in Bellini’s were nicely decorated with seemingly embossed European art-inspired murals that looked grand.
Contributing to the laid-back feel was the brick design and wine bottles arranged on the wall. The lights were dim, setting off a romantic mood for couples. Privacy and intimacy could best be enjoyed, as quietness reigned despite that the place wasn’t eerily empty during the peak of lunch hour.
I took a five-second moment to make myself comfortable, while still appreciating the interior design of the dining room. The waiter handed each of us a copy of Bellini’s menu. Before turning to the first page of the clear book folder, we were offered appetizers. The waiter suggested foccacia bread and quickly, we said okay (without knowing that it’s not complimentary).
My boss gestured that the owner of the restaurant, Signor Roberto Bellini, was seated right next to our table. When I turned to his direction to see, he greeted us in indistinct language which could be understood as either “welcome” or “hello” or “enjoy.” I said thanks, smiled and thought that was the end of our conversation. But then Roberto Bellini acted differently (wildly) when he saw that I took a shot of the first page of Bellini’s menu with my iPhone camera. He got mad and explained that taking pictures of the menu is not allowed. My boss said it’s for the blog, but Mr. Bellini shook his head and refused to accept the answer.
What’s the big deal? Is Bellini’s menu camera-shy? It was as if the ingredients, contents of their recipes and other precious secrets were all listed on the menu and we were taking them away to replicate for our own business. Wah lau! Their menu is far from being comprehensive; it contained only a listing of food names side by side the prices. After receiving the rather rude sermon, I thought… never mind, it’s not my lost. The “unwritten rule” is still a rule made by the owner and the least we do as customers is to abide by it, right? Oh well, moving on…
Side comment: I think menu pictures are useful to inform potential customers what the restaurant serves and help them make choices if they’re going in or not. Zomato has been doing this as it’s found very beneficial for the food establishments as well, in terms of marketing and publicity. Note that MunchPunch’s captured menu for online reference is outdated.
I felt pissed and offended when Mr. Bellini continued to talk about the issue with his Italian friend in Italian while we were waiting for food. Maybe he thought we would not understand, but I heard the keywords “blog,” “camera,” “photo,” and “menu” very clearly. Tsk tsk. That was very unethical.
I mean, everyone has the right to speak in the language they know best, but in this case, he was like stabbing me (a customer) on the back. He knew that we were there and he still went on. How impolite!
Aside from the ill attitude of the owner of Bellini’s Italian Restaurant, another bad feedback is that servers were not attentive. I had to stand up and go to the counter across the main door or look for service attendants around the dining room to call them.
For appetizers, we had the Bread Sticks and Foccacia Bread with Olive Oil which we thought were both for free. I learned later that the foccacia bread costs PHp 100. Usually, Italian restaurants serve these pieces as complimentary, right? The long bread sticks were almost tasteless, and I agree with a blog post which suggested that these bread sticks should not be touched unless one is super hungry. The foccacia bread was soft but not as warm as I expected.
We had to go back to work immediately, so to make sure that we get the best of Bellini’s in the shortest time, we obediently followed the staff’s house recommendations on pizza and pasta.
For pasta, we had the Pasta Cinghiale (PHp 400), which was not even on the menu. The waiter said this variant is special because it’s topped with a sauce of wild boar stewed in tomatoes. It’s almost a rarity since not many restaurants serve that same dish. Sadly, the wild boar pasta turned out to taste bland and the wild boar bits were hardly noticeable.
No herbs were present and the tomato-based sauce did not taste of ripe, juice tomatoes. There was no balance of acidity and sweetness as it tasted just bland and unappealing.
We also shared the Ravioli al Tartufo (PHp 270) which in plain English means Spinach and Ham Ravioli in Truffle Sauce. Out of the six pieces of raviolis on a plate, the fillings in two were cold and the rest was either hot or warm. What does this unevenness imply?
I’m thinking they were not made fresh from the kitchen but just taken from the refrigerator and then heated. Like the pasta, the tomato sauce used in the ravioli al tartufo did not taste good. It looked dull without the nice chunks of tomatoes. Compared to the quality and taste of raviolis by Bistro Ravioli, El Cangrejo, Balducci Ristorante and Deli and L’Opera Ristorante Italiano, Bellini’s raviolis were a let-down.
With thin and crisp crust, the Quattriza (PHp 610) consisted of these four flavors: cheese, veggies, sausages and anchovies. Each had its distinct taste but none was praise-worthy. I’d rather go to Pizza Hut, Shakey’s or Greenwich anytime.
Finally, our plates were taken out and red wine courtesy of Bellini’s was served to wash the food tastes all down. The red wine tasted like the standard red wine in our church during service minus the kick of alcohol. It tasted like sweet grape juice, a nice end to our meal. It might be the only thing that I liked.
Price for Value: ★☆☆☆☆
Sigh. I must admit, Bellini’s Italian Restaurant in Cubao Expo got the atmosphere right. However, with poor ratings on food and service, the expensive prices tagged on food are not worth their value. It’s easy to figure that this restaurant failed on multiple infractions. Needless to say, I won’t be going back for another terrible experience.
Operating hours: 11:30am-11:00pm