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From Manila to Italy: Cibo's journey through decades of Italian flavors

Published Dec 08, 2023 6:00 pm

In 1997, Margarita Forés opened Cibo, initially a modern Italian caffé-paninoteca inspired by panino places across Milan and Rome.

Cibo has since grown to serve an extensive collection of Italian delights. Having learned from three Italian signoras, Margarita’s approach to the cuisine is homey and nurturing, with utmost importance placed on the quality of good ingredients. With 21 locations, Cibo persists in delivering a contemporary taste of Italy to Manila.

In 2019, Cibo, in partnership with Cathay Pacific, offered its patrons an extraordinary opportunity to journey around Italy and celebrate its 21 years of culinary success. In the Fly to Rome promo, diners were entitled to one raffle ticket for every P2,000 spent in Cibo. The winner of the event would get two Cathay Pacific round-trip tickets, five-star hotel accommodations, a travel allowance of P50,000, and all meals shouldered by Cibo. The best part? Having Cibo’s chef patron, Margarita Forés, as the tour guide.

You can never have enough panini. Cibo’s tour guide extraordinaire, Margarita Forés

“Experiencing a trip to Italy is quite priceless. The tastes I encountered there are what I wanted to bring to Manila when we opened Cibo. I wanted to be able to share that with our loyal customers after 21 years,” shares Chef Margarita.

Sharing a moment in front of the Milan Cathedral, which is the third largest cathedral in the world.

The winner of Fly to Rome was Vlamir Rabo. He and his wife, Janice, didn’t even think of filling out their raffle entries. “We didn’t think we could win. Our kids were the ones that filled it out for us!” shares Vlamir. Originally set to take place in 2020, the trip had to be delayed to a later date because of the pandemic. Three years later, the trip was finally set to push through.

After waiting three years to claim their prize, the winning couple, Vlamir and Janice, enjoy a dinner in Rome with Margarita Forés.
A Roman holiday and beyond

The initial plan was to take the winners on a five-day trip around Rome. However, Margarita decided to turn this into a gastronomic pilgrimage across the cities that have inspired her over the decades. Their Roman adventure kicked off with a timeless tradition: tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain, a gesture of hope to return one day.

First order of business: tossing a coin into the Trevi in hopes to return again one day

From the grandeur of the Vatican to the charm of cobblestone streets, Rome was an immersion in art and history. Florence, the birthplace of Margarita’s love for Italy, beckoned next. Two nights were spent wandering through familiar haunts, savoring Bistecca Fiorentina by her old apartment, and indulging in gelato while soaking in the city’s artistic ambiance.

Italian mornings begin with coffee and pastries—here, a selection of sweets from Rome’s Regoli Pasticceria.
Sandwiches by the famed All’Antico Vinaio in Florence, always a treat

Spontaneous excursions outside the planned itinerary added an element of surprise. Pompeii provided a touch of antiquity, as they marveled at the archaeological wonders of the ancient city; a drive to the Amalfi Coast allowed them to dine on maritime dishes; and a trip to Venice added a touch of enchantment, complete with delectable bites, and a dreamy gondola ride. 

To be in Italy during truffle season is truly a dream come true. Nothing completes a pasta dish more than freshly shaved white truffles.

Milan, with its vibrant energy, closed the loop on this whirlwind Italian escapade. The Rabo family’s reflections on their 2008 honeymoon to Italy underscored the transformation this trip wrought. Italy, once overlooked, now unfolded before them as a canvas of tastes and aromas, art and history. Spontaneity often defines some of the best adventures. For the Rabo family, zipping around with Margarita across enchanting Italian cities allowed them not only to discover the diversity of each region but also to experience what truly makes up this country of fast cars and slow food.

La Margherita Gialla at Milan’s Fabbrica Pizzeria has a generous portion of yellow cherry tomato halves, fior di latte, Grana Padano, and basil.

“Twenty-one years later, it just felt right to be able to give a Cibo patron the chance to experience Italy, which inspired me to do so much of what I do,” Margarita says.

The collaboration with Cathay Pacific, a dream come true for the chef, adds a layer of poetic fulfillment. Could this mark the beginning of more Italian adventures for Cibo patrons? Only time can tell. But Margarita has already cast a coin into the Trevi, hinting that a return to Rome may not be far off. 

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Editor’s Note: This article was provided by CIBO.