CHILD’S PLAY

Rel­ish­ing child­hood mem­o­ries at Nono’s

Northern Living - - EATS - TEXT OLIVER EMO­CLING PHO­TOG­RA­PHY DANICA CON­DEZ

On the ground floor of UP Town Cen­ter, a restau­rant stands out: the hole-in-the-wall is adorned with a min­i­mal­ist ar­range­ment of cacti, its ex­te­rior walls are painted pastel green, and its huge win­dows are cov­ered with blinds to con­ceal what’s in­side. This is chef Baba Ibazeta-Bene­dicto’s new ven­ture.

A com­fort food place named af­ter Ibazeta-Bene­dicto’s fa­ther, Nono’s is the type of restau­rant fam­i­lies fre­quent every Sun­day. It’s also a lot like home with its sooth­ing playlist, com­prised of songs by Paul Anka and Nat King Cole. With its ef­fer­ves­cent vibe, Ibazeta-Bene­dicto says that her goal at Nono’s is to “[serve] clas­sic and sim­ple food that [peo­ple] grew up with and have them leave happy.”

The chef lived in the U.S. un­til she was seven years old. When her fam­ily re­turned to the Philip­pines, she then be­came the ward of yaya War­lita, whom she would of­ten watch cook. Amazed by her nanny’s kitchen skills, the young Ibazeta-Bene­dicto even asked her mom if she could go to maid school. “[One of the rea­sons why I pur­sued culi­nary arts] is be­cause of her. If there’s one per­son who had in­flu­enced me, it’s yaya War­lita,” she re­veals with a smile.

To pay homage to her child­hood nanny, Ibazeta-Bene­dicto in­cluded yaya War­lita’s clas­sic Bolog­nese recipe. “This was al­ways in our freezer grow­ing up. Every cel­e­bra­tion, we still have that,” she says. True to the chef’s goal, the pasta dish is pretty sim­ple and straight­for­ward: the tomato beef ragu is slow-cooked to elicit the fla­vors of both the beef and the toma­toes, and a gen­er­ous serv­ing of the sauce is lay­ered on a spaghet­tini nest then topped with parme­san cheese. The rich pasta is the grown-up ver­sion of your child­hood spaghetti but meatier and bolder in fla­vor, leav­ing tangy and sa­vory af­ter­tastes in the mouth.

To spark fur­ther mem­o­ries of child­hood birth­day par­ties, pair the clas­sic Bolog­nese with Nono’s Homestyle

Fried Chicken. The gravy that comes with it is more herby than spicy and sa­vory, and you can mix it with honey to add a hint of sweet­ness. While both the pasta and the chicken are ap­peal­ing to a grownup’s palate, the straight­for­ward din­ing plea­sure they give will prob­a­bly make you wish that ev­ery­thing had re­mained as sim­ple as spaghetti-and-chicken meals.

One of the more up­graded dishes on Nono’s menu is their pork belly bal­samic adobo. Cooked for four hours, the pork belly doesn’t need too much ef­fort to be sliced. And un­like the clas­sic adobo and its re­liance on white vine­gar, the restau­rant’s use of bal­samic vine­gar lends an ex­otic, sweet taste to the Filipino fa­vorite. Ibazeta-Bene­dicto sure knows how her din­ers like their adobo, as she’d al­ready driz­zled some of the sauce on the rice be­fore serv­ing.

“In our fam­ily, meals are al­ways a cel­e­bra­tion,” she says. Nono’s is a re­minder that a meal need not be ex­trav­a­gant to qual­ify as a feast.

“In our fam­ily, meals are al­ways a cel­e­bra­tion.”

Nono’s clas­sic bolog­nese is the recipe of chef Baba Ibaze­taBene­dicto’s nanny.

Coun­ter­clock­wise: Eggs Bene­dict; Ibazeta-Bene­dicto had her de­sign team try the menu be­fore com­ing up with the homey in­te­ri­ors; pork belly bal­samic adobo.

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