This year, we took the more challenging option which is to leave Manila at exactly 3AM to be able to get to Clark by 5. I guess word has really spread far and wide about this yearly event that we were faced with a bad traffic jam from the entrance of Clark up until the parking lot of the Air Field. At 430AM there was already a long line of cars filled with excited passengers hoping that they will make it inside on time.
We finally found our parking spot at 530AM and thanks to Richard and Irene who got tickets for us in advance, we quickly made a beeline towards the entrance as we pushed and shoved our way in.
The hot air balloon flight started a little past 7AM as they had to wait for the sun to rise. Slowly we saw huge hot air balloons in all shapes and sizes rise up to the sky and flew off to the other side of Pampanga (or to Never Never Land :P).
The crowd was bigger this time and we missed some of our personal favorites seen in the past shows. Still, the sight of twenty-something balloons up in the sky never fails to take my breath away.
As the sun continues to rise, we left the Air Field hungry and excited for breakfast. However we had to remind ourselves of our lunch reservation at C' Italian Dining thus we have to make sure breakfast will just be light... or rather we were hoping it would be. Due to the delay in getting to McDonald's along Balibago street as traffic was horrible everywhere, we ended up inhaling a set of Longganisa (native sausage) Meal each and sharing a box of large fries. Even so, our appetite was still ready for our big lunch ahead.
We rested a while as we waited for C' to open. At exactly 11AM, we met up with fellow members of The Foodie Club namely Richard & Irene, Abet & Joan and Jane & Chris for our much-awaited Italian lunch.
For the longest time that Paul and I have been going to Pampanga, C' Italian Dining has always been on my list but we always fail to secure a reservation. This year, the restaurant was fully-booked again but we were lucky enough to secure a table for our party of nine.
What's on the table?
For starters, we had a basket of warm bread, which I believe were home-baked, and a platter of pesto with olive oil and cheese. I love pesto and this made me eat a lot of bread as I enjoyed dipping my warm soft bread into the salty yet fragrant pesto mixture. It inspired me to do this at home, I hope I can make it as delicious as the one in C's.
C' Italian Dining is known for their Panizza and we all agreed to try it and see for ourselves. I was immediately drawn towards the first flavor in the menu -- Millionario (Php. 835). As stated, it's C's very own creation of fine crisp dough topped with a blend of five different cheese and herbs, infused with tomato paste, white truffle oil and shrimps.
The truffle oil caught my attention and I suggested that we get this. Richard and Paul couldn't help teasing me that I was simply won over by the mere mention of "truffle oil". Guess they do know me pretty well. :)
Admittedly, I was a bit shock with the price of the Panizza. With a price tag like that, I surely had high hopes for this.
So how did it fare? To be honest, it was delicious, I enjoyed adding a piece of my favorite arugula and alfalfa sprouts before rolling my panizza like a sushi. The pizza was very tasty but for it to be worth P835, I was really expecting more. For one thing, none of us noticed the truffle oil. Where was it? Some even tasted a hint of peanut butter which wasn't even part of the description. Wish they have added more truffle oil in to satisfy my truffle-loving heart. :)
While browsing through the menu, Abet immediately pointed out the Roasted Honey and Garlic Pork Spare Ribs (Php. 1350). Ok, now let me tell you how I immediately fell in love with this dish. Abet was kidding when he was asking the server to bring in our platter of spare ribs with his hand gesturing to show a huge plate. We were all laughing and teasing him about it until the server did arrive with a HUGE plate filled with what looked like an entire slab of spare ribs and a generous serving of Parmesan Polenta. One order is good for a party of 6, or in our case, it was good for 8.
Polenta looks like a mashed potato only it has a coarser texture as its made using cornmeal. It goes perfectly well with the juicy, honey sweet spare ribs. I love this dish so much that I would definitely go back to C' to have just the pork spare ribs and polenta and I'd be a happy diner.
I was also told that C's gnocchi is worth trying and so we also went for this. Gnocchi is also called potato pasta. Quite interesting that I enjoy having this whenever the opportunity arises. We chose the Gnocchi Ricotta Bolognia (Php. 950), which I felt was just a-ok for me. Nothing spectacular this even coming from my husband who loves red sauce. It's served with chunky ragu sauce with angus chuck roll braised in tomatoes and wine. I would try the Gnocchi again next time but I'd probably get a smaller serving of the Gnocchi Ricotta Antonio which is cooked with white cream sauce.
Irene and Richard ordered a plate of herb chicken initially for their adorable daughter Lauren but we were surprised at the size of what was supposed to be a kiddie meal. It's a huge deep dish filled with rice pilaf topped with what looks like a whole chicken. It was so funny I couldn't help but laugh as we "helped" Lauren finish her lunch. ;)
In truth, Lauren chose to skip her chicken lunch and left the entire dish for us, adults to enjoy. I love the tender chicken meat drizzled with special gravy-like sauce and the rice pilaf was fragrant and delicious. Kids nowadays are lucky to have kiddie meals this good.
Despite the expensive price tag, we all enjoyed our lunch at C' Italian and I am excited to head back to Angeles, Pampanga soon to have more of that Honey and Garlic Spare Ribs with Polenta. *drool*
*photos by Paul Ang
C Italian Dining is located at 1210 Don Juico Ave., Malabanas, Clarkview, Balibago
Angeles, Pampanga. Reservation (especially during the weekends) is a must. Call them at +63 (45) 892-4059, +63 (45) 892-6993.