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This Italian-Filipino restaurateur loves bulalo and, of course, pasta

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 24, 2022 5:00 am

His name alone screams Italian, but Giulius Iapino, also called Giulio or Hulyo, is more Filipino than Italian. This is because he lived in the Philippines his entire life. His parents, Antonio Iapino and Doris Samson, met in Rome when his mother decided to look for better opportunities abroad in her twenties. It was in her hometown in Bulacan where Giulius was born and raised. He grew up under the care of his grandparents with the help of aunts and uncles, while his parents worked hard to provide for his needs. He says of his dual cultures, “I was born and raised in the Philippines where I live, so I am a proud Filipino. As a matter of fact, I am actually running for Councilor in Norzagaray, Bulacan. Filipino culture and traditions live in me. But that doesn’t mean I do not value my Italian heritage.”

Parents Antonio “Toni” and Doris Iapino with their restaurateur son

Giulius is the president and CEO of Rigatoni Corporation, with four restaurants under his belt. There is Parmigiano Ristorante Pizzeria with branches in Newport Mall, Resorts World Manila and Molito, Alabang; Toni & Sergio Gastro Italiano located at the Venice Grand Canal Mall, McKinley Hill; and Mamma Mia at the Uptown Mall in BGC. Obviously, all offer traditional Italian cuisine, except for Toni & Sergio, which serves an interesting fusion of Spanish and Italian fare.

Giulius in front of the Colosseum in Rome, his father’s hometown

When I asked Giulius what made him decide to go into the restaurant business, he said, “As we know, food is a necessity. We can resist buying new clothes, but it is difficult to resist hunger. And to be honest, my family loves to eat. So we thought, why not put up a business where we can both satisfy our cravings for food and at the same time make a profit? We chose to offer authentic Italian cuisine since my father is an Italian who has his roots there. He has a keen understanding of Italian food and since everybody loves pizza and pasta, this is the perfect way to go. Italian cuisine is focused on fresh ingredients, so it really has high health benefits as well.”

The interiors of Mamma Mia in Uptown Mall

He takes pride in his company’s core objective, which is providing an authentic Italian dining experience. “Our dishes are cooked with the finest and imported ingredients meticulously prepared and served with generous portions, perfect for family feasting. Also, we greatly value our customers who visit and dine with us, and we see to it that we provide them with excellent service and a memorable atmosphere.”

Since he is always around food, I was interested in what Giulius’ favorite dishes were. “My all-time favorites are bulalo and adobo. So tasty! I can still vividly remember how my Inang Lina would regularly cook bulalo and adobo every Sunday, when everyone was home. Apart from being a meat lover, these dishes are symbols of family to me. As for Italian dishes, I love pasta Amatriciana, Cacio e Pepe, and Trippa Alla Romana. Those are all from my dad’s hometown, Rome. Pasta in Italy is not just food; it is an integral part of life and popular culture.”

Mamma Mia serves authentic Italian fare.

The parents of Giulius taught him the importance of family, that it is the most important thing in the world. This love of family extends to the dining table, where families gather over a meal at get-togethers and celebrations. This is his inspiration for his restaurants, a venue where families can come together over food.

The pandemic really hit the restaurant industry hard, so Giulius had to adjust to sustain his restaurant operations. He had to be flexible and creative to keep the presence of his outlets in the market. He values his people and implemented shifting schedules in order for them to keep their jobs.

Parmigiano in Molito, Alabang

Furthermore, Giulius is part of RestoPH, a group restaurant owners formed in May 2020, which was the early and dark days of the pandemic. At that time, restaurants were closed for two months and it was a bleak period for the industry. The group, which to date has grown to 200 members, represents the food and beverage community in key discussions with lessors, malls, suppliers, and most importantly, government. RestoPH is now a powerful and respected industry voice, and participant in consultations for government decisions by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), IATF, and local government units.

Generous portions for family feasting: Lasagna at Parmigiano

They have also launched various CSR projects under RestoPH Cares, including Frontline Feeders for Hospital Workers, Farmers Produce with the Department of Agriculture, Bakuna Benefits with Ingat Angat, and Typhoon Odette Relief Fundraising. RestoPH also has successful PR campaigns such as the 100% Vaccinated RestoPH for all restaurant staff, and the establishment of safe dining standards together with the DTI.

Pesto and Cheese Margherita pizza at Tony & Sergio

Sadly, some restaurants had to permanently close their doors because of COVID, with its repeated lockdowns and limitations. Despite this major setback, some restaurants, including those owned by Giulius, found ways to survive the crisis. In the end, the pandemic pushed restaurateurs to rethink their strategies, innovate, and pivot in ways to survive.

Tony & Sergio in McKinley Hill

Now that cases are going down and restrictions are slowly being lifted, the restaurant industry is ready, stronger, and hopeful. The restaurateur and food lover in Giulius Iapino is optimistic. The recent Valentine’s weekend was amazing for him. Dating couples, families, and friends were happily celebrating over food in his restaurants, as it should be. And for Giulius, that is molto bene.