As someone who lives in Manila, I always thought we had some pretty limited unusual dining options close to home. It sometimes felt like a pain having to drive all the way to Makati or BGC or Mandaluyong to chase good food. During one of my gym sessions, my gym-mate recommended Raffaele to me after having tried it with her friends. (We talk about food all the time while exercising hahaha!) So this was where we ended up for my mother’s birthday meal.
We didn’t really know what to expect since we’re unfamiliar with the Bayleaf Hotel. I just know it’s the hotel used by Lyceum students for training in their HRIM course. Quite literally, we just went in there on the word of a friend. And we did not regret it for a second!
Opening the menu, we were slightly overwhelmed by the choices. SO MANY THINGS THAT LOOK DELICIOUS! It took us a long time to decide what to eat because despite the scarcity of photos on the menu, the descriptions underneath each item was enough to give us an idea of the flavors. I prefer a menu that’s difficult in the sense that you can’t pick because everything looks good, not because you’re confused by the contents haha!
As we waited for our orders to arrive we were served with a complimentary appetizer that Italian restaurants usually serve: bread with an olive oil-balsamic vinegar dip. This time though, instead of the usual ciabatta or sourdough, we got to sample a flatbread fresh from Raffaele’s woodfired oven.
The flatbread had a nice bite to it and was delicious with the dip. It felt like a preview for the pizza, only serving to excite us even more.
Uva Salata (Php 410)
Seedless grapes, roasted almonds, ricotta, and candied walnuts are scattered atop a bed of salad greens. A sweet punchy dressing is then drizzled all over.
This salad had a great mix of things that made it a delight. I especially enjoy the play of sweet and savory, because the candied walnuts played so well with the ricotta. I have no idea what the dressing is but I liked it. This was a great salad, but I wish the serving was a little bigger for the price!
Salumeria Pizze (Php 590)
Raffaele’s famous woodfired pizza is topped with sausage, bacon, pepperoni, red onion, tomatoes, and chilies.
This was GREAT pizza. I’m sure the wood-fired oven made a huge difference. Because of the heat it generates, it tends to cook the pizza more quickly, giving it a thin but moist crust that’s just crisp but light, with some char at the edges. The crust is a little hard to cut with utensils so I recommend just going for it with your hands. The crust has this bite to it that I enjoyed; not soft or crunchy, but a little on the firm side.
They used just the right amount of cheese to give each slice a nice pull, but not so much that you feel like you’re drowning in cheese. (I like cheese but not in exaggerated amounts on my pizza.) The toppings give a tang and a savoriness that delights, and the slight spiciness can be increased with hot sauce and chili oil. Go for the chili oil, guys. SO GOOD!
Frutti di Mare (Php 460)
Wood-fired tomato and extra-virgin olive oil act as the base flavor for this red-sauced seafood penne dish.
This pasta dish was quite excellent. The wood-fired tomatoes added this nice tangy boldness to the sauce. I loved how every piece of the penne was coated with flavor, and of course the addition of seafood to any pasta really helps to elevate it methinks. This one even had fried soft-shell crab alongside the prawn, the clams, and the mussels. I wish there was more of the juicy sweet prawns though since I prefer that over mussels.
Riccio di Mare (Php 380)
Pesto-based spaghetti dish flavored with sea urchin, lemon, and chilies.
This one was a very unusual pasta for me in that it is a very wet one. The sauce is almost like a soup, and I can’t help but call this an Italian noodle soup of sorts. The reason we ordered this was because we saw it had sea urchins in it, but perhaps it has been blended into the pesto since I can’t find the sea urchins anywhere. The flavor of this pasta is a nice mix of sweet and also nutty, with a light tang from the lemon and an even lighter kick from the chilies. It was maybe the most unusual-looking pasta, but it was certainly not short on flavor.
Arborio Negro (Php 530)
Arborio rice cooked and blackened with squid ink, then topped with chorizo, smoked salmon, grilled prawns, and dancing bonito.
My Dad really enjoys anything with squid ink, so it didn’t surprise me at all when he ordered this. What did surprise me was how well this dish was prepared. The rice was excellently creamy, and it had just the right amount of squid ink so as not to make it too salty. It allowed the toppings to shine. The flavorful chorizo and smoked salmon complemented the risotto so well. It was interesting to see bonito flakes atop this risotto actually, but everything simply worked so well together. Every bite was a pleasure!
Saltimbocca Di Manzo (Php 900)
Prosciutto-wrapped beef tenderloin cooked in an oil and wine sauce, then served with a side of roasted veggies.
Saltimbocca is actually Italian for ‘jumps in the mouth’ and this dish does that with gusto! The meat is cooked to your preferred level of doneness, and the sauce that it comes with provides a delicious punch that counters the slight saltiness of the prosciutto. I also couldn’t get enough of the roasted vegetables!
A little note: Normally I like my beef medium rare, but this was a little hard to chew for me at that level of doneness, so I recommend going at least medium for this dish. Of course, your preference will still count, but while I was eating this at medium rare, I just felt kind of like I was chewing on the meat forever. It’s a good thing it’s delicious.
Churros (Php 100)
We purposefully did not have any dessert at Raffaele because we spotted the ads for the churros at the Cioccolata Churros Café on the ground floor of The Bayleaf. We ordered their basic six-piece churros with chocolate dip, which was just enough for the family. I kind of regret that we only got one churro each, because these were surprisingly really good!
We had to wait for the churros because they are freshly fried when ordered, but the wait was totally worth it because you get these perfectly golden churros that’s crunchy on the outside and oh so fluffy on the inside! I prefer my churros this way, rather than have a version that seems to want to break my teeth.
The chocolate dip is just simple semisweet melted chocolate but it goes perfectly with the lightly sugar-dusted Spanish doughnuts. There’s nothing wrong with keeping things classic!
What an unexpectedly awesome meal! I have to say I did not anticipate that I would find a new favorite in Intramuros of all places. (And in a hotel that’s being used as a training ground for students no less!) It just goes to show sometimes you don’t know what is in your own backyard. I live in Manila but I have not visited Intramuros since my college days. That’s about to change now.
I’m going to keep this part short because there’s really nothing else I can say that doesn’t sound like a rave. I was just really happy with the meal we had, plus the place was nicely decorated and quiet, which is something I appreciate. The staff were also very attentive.
I had difficulty picking dishes from the menu because there were A LOT of choices that sounded delicious, and I guess this is always a happy problem. It’s also a good reason to return! I find so much joy in this new knowledge that there is a great Italian place of this caliber close to me. Yes, maybe it is pricier than your usual Italian (is it thought?) but I do believe that it is soooo worth it.
And the churros downstairs! It’s the most affordable thing in this review so if you ever find yourself in Intramuros, give them a try!
Overall Rating: 9/10
Raffaele Woodfired Pizza
Full disclosure: This post is NOT sponsored in any way. This meal was fully paid and I received no compensation for writing this review. All opinions stated above are my own.