Caffe Italia: A Culinary Way to Promote Italian Culture

By N. Mark Castro

Covered by trees and rows of houses and nestled inside the Cultural Institute of Italia, this little restaurant actually serves as a canteen to the place, with Italians going in and out, while language lessons are given next door.

The food was seriously intentional, and though most products are derived locally, its cooking is as authentic since it was supervised and prepared by the Italians running the Cultural Institute, and delivered by Javanese smile.

Its menu is a combination of traditional Italian food that is captivating its clientele with its rich and colourful dishes, warm atmosphere and excellent service.

My visiting guest, LiveOlive’s Executive Creative Director Adviser Dennis Garcia, and I started with the salad (so gay) and a very good pizza Margherita. Unlike other highly expensive restaurants pretending to be Italian, this crust was soft and delicately chewy.

And then the pasta:

My friend swears that it’s the best Puttanesca he’s had in years, with its kind of spicy, tangy, pasta sauce that’s been invented since the mid-20th century. The ingredients are typical of Southern Italian Cousin: tomatoes, olive oil, olives, chili peppers, capers, garlic.

I had the Pesto.

Most of the pesto you encounter here in Jakarta is different for a few reasons. First off, most of what you see here is made by machine, usually a food processor or hand blender. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a guy. I’d eat anything as long as it’s edible. And the ones available in the city usually tastes good, but because the ingredients aren’t hand chopped you end up with a texture that is more like a moist paste and there’s little to no definition between ingredients.

Now the Italians got it right. They do most everything by hand: hand-sewn leather shoes, hand-sewn dresses, hand-sewn food … so it’s no wonder that they chop all the ingredients by hand and not blending them, which is key because this prevents the ingredients from becoming a completely homogenized emulsion or paste. When you dress a pasta with a pesto that has been hand chopped the miniscule flecks of basil will separate from the olive oil in places, you get definition between ingredients, and bright flavors pop in a way they don’t when they’ve been blended into one .

I learned this not from eating daily in the Philippines’ Cibo, but by Googling it.

Kick in the Garlic Bread and it’s a hearty meal.

What’s also great about this no-frill canteen/restaurant is that it managed to put together a simple interior yet reminiscent of a good canteen, with posters of hot Italian celebrities, providing a simple yet great ambiance.

With LiveOlive’s Executive Creative Director Adviser Dennis Garcia

It’s not a stretch to like Italy’s culture, after all, without blowing my own toot, I happen to speak several Italian words: Monica Belluci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Giorgio Armani, Roberto Cavalli, and, did I say Monica Belluci?

Though I am tempted to deprive you of further information about the place, I figured … I can always tell the waitress to put my bill in yours.

Istituto Italiano di Cultura,
Jl. HOS Cokroaminoto
117 Menteng Jakarta Pusat 10310
M-F: 10 AM – 9 PM
S: 10 AM – 4 PM


About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on August 3, 2012, in Food, General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Now I am craving authentic Italian food. Thanks! : lol

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