Relishing childhood memories at Nono’s
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.