The Best of Pam­panga


Once upon a time, in 1972 to be pre­cise, Didi’s Pizza opened its doors for the first time. It was Pam­panga’s very own pizza, a home­grown brand that was a fa­vorite of my cousins and me dur­ing the long in­ter­net-free sum­mers of our youth. It was our Shakey’s and Pizza Hut and Yel­low Cab all rolled, or more ac­cu­rately, tossed into one mag­nif­i­cently tasty pizza. I re­mem­ber it was square shaped, not un­like an­other pizza of yore, Ma­goo’s in Ma­gal­lanes. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we didn’t re­ally care about Neapoli­tan-this or wood-fired that… all we wanted was a crispy crust and meaty top­pings. Didi’s is still around in Bal­ibago, I be­lieve, just af­ter the long bridge from down­town An­ge­les City, on the right side of MacArthur High­way go­ing to Clark. It’s still worth visit­ing, es­pe­cially for their pi­o­neer­ing Sisig Pizza.

In 2016, an­other home­grown pizza restau­rant was es­tab­lished on the his­toric high­way, but this time, fur­ther South, in the City of San Fer­nando. It’s Pep & Ron­nie; and there’s noth­ing or­di­nary about it. In the day­time, it’s filled with govern­ment and cor­po­rate types, along with stu­dents from nearby schools. In the evenings, it be­comes a pub, and late at night, it morphs into the hottest club in the city, com­plete with acous­tic per­for­mances, hip­ster vinyl nights, and beats from the coun­try’s most pop­u­lar DJs. Pep & Ron­nie’s is many things to many peo­ple at dif­fer­ent times and dif­fer­ent days of the week, but one thing is con­stant: the pizza. It’s damn good. And that’s to be ex­pected, be­cause Kel Zaguirre of Lo­ca­vore, Poke Poke, and Fyre fame, is the pub’s Chef Con­sul­tant. He dreamt up all the piz­zas and pas­tas, and he asked his child­hood friend, Chef Joseph Nano, to mi­grate to Pam­panga to guar­an­tee qual­ity and con­sis­tency.

The true test of suc­cess in Pam­panga is this: when the no­to­ri­ously finicky and picky eaters of the province em­brace and pa­tron­ize a restau­rant and adopt it as part of their reg­u­lar din­ing ro­ta­tion. That’s pretty rare there, but like Didi’s 45 years ago, Pep & Ron­nie’s has done just that. My hy­per-crit­i­cal cousins in San Fer­nando swear by “their” P&R. And I agree. The top­pings are unique – salmon sashimi and arugula or it­log na maalat and tinapa are stand­outs – but it is the crust, still thin, still crispy, that seals the win. Pep & Ron­nie’s can stand side by side with Crosta, and even Gino’s, as the best new piz­zas of re­cent years. So what are you wait­ing for, Kel and Joseph? Manila de­serves Pep & Ron­nie’s too.



03 3 Blonde Chicken Parmi­giana 03

5 Pep & Ron­nie Fa­cade

4 Sushi Pizza

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