Casa Nostra: A Traditional Italian Restaurant Making Waves In Manila

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Having started in San Francisco in the 1990s, a newly opened restaurant in Manila serving Italian Cuisine, Casa Nostra Restaurant, is taking the capital by storm as the locals flock to get a taste of the real Italian homemade dishes.

Casa Nostra waiter

In this day and age where modern is the new chic in restaurant culture, it has been somewhat of a surprise to witness the rapid success of a cosy, intimate traditional Italian restaurant in Makati- the business district of the capital of the Philippines: Manila.

Casa Nostra Restaurant is the brainchild of the well known and respected F&B entrepreneur, Joey Velardi. In 1991, he opened up the first Casa Nostra Restaurant in Burlingame, San Francisco. It was hailed by critics and customers alike, including renowned celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain in his book “Kitchen Confidential“, as offering something special: old style, authentic Italian cuisine served in an innovative, refreshing way owing to the unique recipes and style of the food. The name “Casa Nostra“, meaning “our home” in Italian was also an ironic take on the “Cosa Nostra” mafia nickname, something that also reflected Joey‘s personal experiences from his youth in Las Vegas.

In the food and hotel industry for some 50 years, Joey‘s CV reads like a “who’s who” of the F&B industry. In Korea, he set up and ran the Sheraton Walker Hill Resort and Casino. While in Seoul, he also happened to open (in 1972) a “Casa Nostra” type Italian restaurant called La Cantina, which is still going strong today. In Karachi, Joey set up the Clifton Beach Casino for Stanley Ho, while in Hong Kong he founded the first premier steakhouse: The San Francisco Steakhouse, a renowned success. Also in Hong Kong over a ten year period, Joey designed and built the Ah-So Floating Sushi Bar, the first of it’s concept in Asia, as well as Casa Mexicana and Lindy’s Delicatessen. Meanwhile in Taiwan, Joey managed the Dynasty Group- which included building and running the original TGI Friday’s and Hard Rock Cafe, as well as up-market restaurants such as The Marquis. In Thailand, Joey set up the Banana Fan Sea Resort, while back in Las Vegas he was responsible for the Shakey’s Pizza franchise.

In the Philippines, to say that Joey Velardi is well known amongst the F&B crowd would be putting it lightly- he is a legend. From 1995 to 1999, he built and ran the Mimosa Leisure Estate including two furnished hotels (Holiday Inn and Montevista) and the Hollywood-themed Regency Casino. In 1999, Joey was COO of of Fairways and Bluewater Resort, overseeing over 300 employees and building a the five star luxury villas, clubhouse, 36 golf course and the hosting of the Johnnie Walker Classic. From 2002, Joey took over management of the Bistro Group where he helped secure the franchises for the TGI Friday’s, Italianni’s and Outback restaurants- turning them into a positive cashflow within 12 months.

Casa Nostra Restaurant has been a huge success among the the local crowd, whose most popular choice of cuisine, ironically, is Italian. Most of this has been achieved purely by word of mouth- with the homemade pasta, the unique meat and fish recipes (like the Tagliatelle di Turtufo Crudo, Risotto alla Finanziera, Ossobuco Gremolata and Cioppino) as well as the desserts (Tiramisu, Gelato and Zabaglione)- all getting rave reviews from the food critics. Added to this is the cosy, traditional feel of the decoration and the excellent service of the staff- perhaps it isn't surprising to have witnessed such a meteoric rise of the restaurant's success.

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