Where to Eat Filipino Food in Rome

In my 20-year experience with Filipinos, what I have noticed is that Pinoy restaurants here in Italy have always had a hard time succeeding.

The over 50,000 Pinoy who live and work in Rome do eat out quite a lot, but they usually prefer fast-food chains like KFC, Mc Donald’s and Burger King and eat all you can restaurants run by Chinese to Filipino ones.

One reason is probably the fact that most Filipinos who live here are either part of a big family and have several relatives here or they are part of a religious community like the Iglesya ni Kristo or the Saksi ni Jehova or others.

Therefore they have plenty of options to taste Pinoy food in the several salu-salo or social gatherings that take place on a weekly basis within their extended family circle or their community.

Because Pinoy salu-salo follow the K.K.B. (kanya-kanyang baon) rule and every participant is expected to bring something, there is usually way more Pinoy food available in an average salu-salo than in a Pinoy restaurant.

This is perhaps the reason why Pinoy restaurants here in Rome are not so many.

However there are some and they have enough parokyano to sustain their business, and all the more so because they also do catering services.

The most popular Pinoy restaurants in town are Neighborhood, Asian Delight and Manila Restaurant.

We usually go to Neighborhood, a Kapampangan restaurant situated in the Vatican area.

The reason why we go to this one is because we know the owners.

Despite the fact that local Filipinos have plenty of salu-salo and, therefore many don’t go to Pinoy restaurants that often, most of the times we eat at Neighborhood, there are a lot of parokyano (most are likely OFW from other parts of Italy or other countries who are visiting Rome as tourists)

Portions are huge and prices are very reasonable.

The level of cleanliness is way above the average Pinoy standards and the C.R. or Comfort Rooms (a.k.a. toilets) are super clean.

According to what’s written on the menu, drinks should include tubig ng buhay (a.k.a. Red Horse beer) but each time I go they never have it (or maybe they have it nakatago somewhere….).

Their halo-halo is the best I have tasted so far here in Italy.

So if you visit Rome and are looking for Pinoy food you can easily find it in large amounts and of good quality in one of the above-mentioned restaurants.

And if you know some Pinoy here and have the chance to be invited to a large salu-salo, your chances to eat sagana and masarap na Pinoy food are even better.

Mabuhay ang masarap na pagkain!

Halo-halo at Neighborhood Filipino Restaurant in Rome
Sizzling sisig
Lumpya and Italian beer (nasaan ang Red Horse?!?!?…. nakasulat sa menu na mayroon)
Sobrang malinis ang C.R.: bawal umihi dito! Sa labas na lang!)

Yung Feeling na…. Magiging Probinsya ng China ang Bayan Ko

“Made in Italy” (sa sweatshop ng mga Intsik)
“Real Italian” cappuccino sa bar na hawak ng mga Intsik=”cappuIntsik”

Marami ang nagsasabi na maaari maging probinsya ng China ang Pilipinas.

Ewan ko kung ano ang mangyayari.

Ang alam ko ay na tuwing Sabado ng umaga dinadala ako ng aking Pinay na misis sa pinakamalaking Chinatown ng Roma (isa sa marami….) at nararanasan ko yun’ feeling na….China na dito.

Masaya naman ang mga Pilipino dahil sa mga sari-sari ng mga Intsik mayroon lahat ng uri ng tsitseria na imported mula sa Pilipinas…na kapag ibinebenta ng mga Intsik nagiging “Intsik”tseria…

Tsitseria sa tindahan ng mga Intsik=”Intsik”tseria

The Filipino Community of Rome

The number of Filipinos living and working in Italy is estimated to be over 200,000 and they are highly concentrated in the cities of Rome and Milan.

The number of T.N.T. or Tago Nang Tago (illegal immigrants) is estimated to be between 20,000 and 80,000.

Around 60% of Pinoy migrants in this country are women who often are the first ones to come and, when they meet the requirements for family reunification, they petition their husbands and the rest of the family.

By and large Filipino illegal migrants in this country don’t run that much of a risk of being deported, as the Filipino community is by far the best accepted and beloved foreign community in the country (78% of Italians view them as hardworking and 66% view them as honest) and also because, as Filipinos often say, mabait ang gobyerno dito…

Filipinos in Italy have the least amount of unemployed people among the various foreign communities, as 77% are employed while 7,2% are unemployed (according to some recent statistics)

Rome has by far the largest concentration of Pinoy in the country

Filipinos buying groceries at the largest multiethnic food market of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome
Filipino stall inside the multiethnic food market of Rome

Filipinos say “mabait ang gobyerno dito”: a Pinoy parked his bagong kotse in a no-parking area while the “buwaya” were engaged in kwentuan….
The “bayanihan” spirit is alive also among Pinoy in Rome as at many Filipino weddings everyone brings some food and there is some “tulong-tulong”

Neighborhood Restaurant: one of the best Pinoy restaurants in town

Rizal monument in the “Luneta Park” of Rome situated in Piazza Manila
The former squatter area where few Filipinos used to live before police evicted everyone: the place was nicknamed “Beverly Hills” by Filipinos
The “Lake Taal” of Rome or Lago di Vico: a crater lake that has another (extinct) volcano inside

Maligayang pagdating sa Roma!

When Filipinos See Snow for the First Time

The Philippines is a tropical country and, although in the Philippines there are areas where the weather can get rather cold, like the Cordillera Mountains around Baguio City, snow is nowhere to be found in the Philippines.

So one of the things Filipinos, who are new here in Italy, get excited about is seeing the snow for the first time in their life.

Here in Rome it snows pretty rarely but very close to Rome there are plenty of ski resorts and high mountains that are full of snow for several months a year.

The highest peak in Central Italy is the Gran Sasso d’Italia, whose summit is 2914 mt above sea level, and it is about 1,5 hour drive from Rome.

What’s interesting about the Gran Sasso is that on it’s summit there is the Southernmost glacier in Europe.

We recently organized a bus trip to Mount Gran Sasso with a group of Filipinos who had never seen the snow in their lives and all of them behaved like little children for one day…

On the road to the Gran Sasso d’Italia
Gran Sasso d’Italia

Gran Sasso d’Italia
Snow in Rome (3 years ago)

Pasalubong from the Philippines

My mother-in-law has just returned from the Philippines and, as all Filipinos who live overseas, she has brought tons of pasalubong: from Omega Pain Killer and Efficascent Oil to Boy Bawang and Tender Juicy hot dogs, a new rice cooker and a lot of other stuff.

Pasalubong is the Filipino tradition of travellers bringing gifts from their destination to people back home, after being away for a period of time, and the term refers both to Filipinos who live abroad who bring gifts to friends and relatives when they go home to the Philippines or to Filipino Overseas Workers who go to the Philippines on holiday and bring back pasalubong from the Philippines, especially things that are hard to find in a Western country or are too expensive to buy (like Omega Pain Killer for example).

I was expecting some Tanduay or Red Horse beer as pasalubong but I only got a new barong that I can add to my collection of barongs.

Tsitseria from the Philippines
My new barong

Barbecue (BBQ) in the Philippines and Among Filipinos in Italy

In the Philippines it is all about food and the expressions kumain ka na? (“have you eaten?”) and kain ka (“have some food”) or “meryenda ka” are the expressions that immediately follow kumusta ka? (“how are you?”) when you visit a Filipino home.

This happens both in the Philippines and among OFW in my country.

Filipinos love food and every street in the Philippines is lined with food stalls and eateries.

Both in the Philippines and in my country Filipinos have social gatherings or salu-salo as often as they can.

In winter salu-salos take place indoors while between spring and autumn Filipinos who live in Rome take advantage of the fact that Rome has plenty of parks and that the weather is, more often than not, ideal to gather outside and mag-ihaw or prepare barbecue marinade.

The basic ingredients used to make barbecue marinade, at least the way they do it here, and the way my Filipino wife does it, are soy sauce, ground black pepper, lemon juice, banana ketchup, garlic, onion and brown sugar.

Filipinos just love it.

The problem is that, for most Filipinos here in Rome, BBQ is something that they cannot afford to do as often as they do it in the Philippines because they live in apartments and, although most apartments here in Rome do have a balcony or a terrace, chances are that neighbors will complain if Filipinos dare using their balcony to BBQ, as Italians like hanging their clothes on the balcony and they hate wearing “smoked” clothes.

The only Filipinos who can BBQ on their terraces or balconies are the ones who have the luck to live on the last floor of an apartment building, in a penthouse (that can be hard to find in Rome and pretty expensive).

A typical apartment building in Rome

What’s the solution then?

There is no other option then than either wait for warmer days and BBQ in a park or buy an electric grill, one of those that can even be used indoors.

My wife and I have one and it does its job, this way my Filipino wife’s cravings for BBQ are satisfied all-year-round…

“Little Italy” in Batangas and “Little Batangas” in Italy

The “Ako ay Pilipino Roma” page’s cover photo

The Facebook page’s cover photo of “Ako ay Pilipino Roma” is all about the concern of the vast community of people from Batangas, who live and work in Rome, for what is happening and what might happen in the area that surrounds the Taal Volcano.

The Batangueno community is, arguably, the largest Filipino community here in Rome and I know hundreds of people from Batangas who live here.

Batanguenos have been working here since the early “80’s and many have built Italian-style homes on an once isolated hillside of the town of Mabini, which, for this very reason, has been nicknamed “Little Italy”.

Over 6000 people from the town’s total population of about 45,000 have moved to Italy.

Thousands of other taga-Batangas come from places like Balayan, Batangas City, but also from places that are very close to the volcano like Talisay or the town of Taal.

I can easily tell, when I hear them talking on a bus or in the metro, that they are from Batangas because I am very familiar with the fact that Batanguenos (like Bulaquenos) use dine instead of dito and ire instead of ito.

The Taal Volcano erupted without any warning back in January 12 and it only took it 6 hours to escalate the level of its dangerous nature, unlike Mount Pinatubo, which took days before escalating.

So the situation is highly unpredictable and the concern among the people who make up the “little Batangas” dine sa Roma is very high.

Raising of the Alert Status of Taal Volcano

A very large portion of Pinoy immigrants in Rome come from Batangas, the province where Lake Taal is situated and from other nearby areas.

Lake Taal is a rather unique place because it’s a crater lake that has a volcanic island in it’s middle and this island is an active volcano which is currently erupting and spewing ashes within a vast area and the authorities are warning about a possible massive explosive eruption.

A friend of mine has a house in Talisay, right on the shores of Lake Taal and my brother-in-law’s family is from San Pablo City, Laguna, not far from the lake.

I’ve got close friends in places that are situated in close proximity to the lake like Calamba in Laguna, Balayan in Batangas and I know a lot of people from other nearby areas like Matabungkay, Nasugbu, Cavite etc.

So a lot of Pinoy migrants here in Rome, Italy, are closely following what is happening in these hours because their families might be affected by the increasing activity of Taal Volcano.

Let’s hope for the best…

Ang Espiritu ng Bayanihan ng mga Pilipino sa Italy

Bilang foreign na asawa ng isang Pilipina isa sa mga bagay na hinahangaan ko tungkol sa mga Pilipino ay ang espiritu ng bayanihan.

Hindi ito ang isang katangian na basta lang binasa ko sa mga aklat o sa mga blog tungkol sa Pilipinas kundi personal na naranasan ko maraming beses at sa maraming paraan.

Ang alam ko ay na sa Pilipinas may pagkakataon na literal na binubuhat ng mga tao ang buong bahay ng isang kabayan na nangangailangang lumipat sa ibang lugar.

Medyo mahirap buhatin ang bahay ng misis ko sa Bulacan dahil yari iyon sa hollow block at bakal, kaya medyo mabigat yata…

At mahirap din buhatin ang mga bahay dito sa Italya dahil halos lahat ng mga Pilipino dito ay nakatira sa mga apartment na nasa loob ng isang gusali at medyo mabigat din yata ang palasyo.

Ngunit dito sa Roma tuwing lumilipat ang isang Pilipino sa ibang apartment libre ang serbisyo ng lipat bahay dahil maraming mga kabayan ang tumutulong

Ang mga Pilipino na nakatira sa Italy at hindi nangangailangan ng moving company, libre ang lipat bahay (o “halos” libre, syempre naman kailangan mag-alok ng kaunting “pampainit, pampatunaw at pampagana”)

Actually noong huling lumipat ako sa ibang bahay marami ang tumulong sa akin.

Ang isa pang paraan na ang mga Pilipino sa aking bansa ay nagpapakita ng espiritu ng bayanihan ay kapag ang isa ay may alam na may available na trabaho: karaka-raka nagkakalat siya ng balita sa Facebook upang tulungan ang mga kabayan na nangangailangan

Kaya ang bayanihan ay hindi lang ipinakikita ng mga tao sa Pilipinas kundi sa abroad din at, syempre naman, ito ay ang isang bagay na, bilang asawa ng isang Pilipina, talagang pinahahalagan ko.

Filipinos in Italy: Foreigners in the Country and Foreigners at Home

Few weeks ago I spoke with a 25-year-old son of a Bulaquenya who was born here and he has never been to the Philippines and, sure enough, he cannot even form a sentence in Tagalog.

I had the impression that his mother is very far from being fluent in Italian, so how can they develop meaningful communication at home?

Filipino parents are too busy at work and some who work live-in only get to see their spouses and their children on Thursdays (afternoon only) and Sundays (which are the only days that the typical live-in worker is off from work here in Italy).

Those who work “lungo orario” (meaning the whole day), and do go back home after work every day, have to travel at least two hours to get back home, as here in Rome we have more buses than we have subways, and so when they get home it is too late and they are too tired to teach Tagalog to their children.

On top of that the typical Filipino home is very hi-tech and there are all sorts of gadgets that get in the way of communication and the end result is that, in way too many Filipino homes in Italy, Filipinos are estranghero sa bansa at estranghero sa bahay because they struggle to speak Italian well, while often their children, who are native Italian speakers, hardly speak any Tagalog.

The interesting thing is that there are Filipino parents who ask me to teach Tagalog to their children, and, out of bayanihan spirit, I try to help.

The next one I am going to teach is the son of the Bulaquenya I mentioned above…..


Filipinos in Italy are always very busy and in a hurry

Italian husband of a Filipina teaching Tagalog to Filipino young kids