Tucked in a building at the corner of Tomas Morato and Scout Castor is an underground cafe by day and a watering hole by night. Dolce Amore, or sweet love, is very easy to miss, especially if you are not paying attention to the signs at Lansbergh Place.
Unless, of course, you are one of the regulars of this cozy joint, which according to Chef Alloy Neyra, include high-profile people – from politicians who want some peace and quiet to actors wishing to unwind without getting mobbed by adoring fans.
“This is a place for them to hide even for just a few hours, a place where they can have some alone time where no one will bother them,” Neyra said.
“It is a place to keep secrets. But, I guess it is not much of a secret now with this interview. The secret is out,” she added, laughing as she was prodded to name some of the VIPs who have enjoyed a cup of coffee or two at Dolce Amore.
“A former president and several members of the House of Representatives and the Senate would frequent my coffee shop. They just sit here like ordinary people, sipping their coffee or perhaps a glass of scotch if they come at night.”
Neyra, whose comfort food include her mother’s homemade pasta and pizza, opened Dolce Amore in 2011 after finishing culinary school and honing her gastronomic chops at two luxury hotels in Metro Manila.
“I grew up loving Italian food, and I also love sweets. This is why I chose Dolce Amore for my coffee shop’s name,” added Neyra, who started helping out in the kitchen at the tender age of six.
In fact, her coffee shop was the first to offer cake in a jar in Tomas Morato in 2012.
“We were really the pioneers on Morato. Other establishments got the idea from us, and soon almost every other coffee shop in the area started offering cake in a jar,” she said.
Dolce Amore’s cake in a jar comes in five flavors: mango, chocolate, strawberry, red velvet, and tiramisu. Most customers order these fancy cakes to go, usually as giveaways for birthdays and other special occasions.
“Baking for me is therapeutic. It requires a lot of passion to create beautiful cakes,” added Neyra, who also does cupcakes, cookies and made-to-order cakes.
Her sweet creations are the perfect partners to Dolce Amore’s imported Italian-blend coffee, which can be surprisingly strong and served in generously huge mugs.
Neyra’s love for Italian cuisine is also reflected in Dolce Amore’s hot plate offerings – sausage rolls, chili shrimp pasta, and quattro formaggi and garlic and shrimp pizza, among others.
“I like spicy food. Even the Filipino food that we serve, such as the beef salpicao, has a spicy kick to it,” she said.
At night, the coffee shop transforms into an underground bar, with chill music adding to the intimate ambiance while guests nurse their choice of cocktails, shooters, beer bombs, vodka, tequila, scotch, bourbon, or alcopops.
Dolce Amore has a wide array of bar chow, including dynamite cheese sticks, calamari, garlic chicken lollipop, parmesan crusted fish fillet, gambas al ajillo, and its all-time cholesterol fix – roasted bone marrow.
“We want people to feel at home, to be able to relax without having to overthink which drink to order or which food goes well with what alcoholic drink,” Neyra said.
“Best of all, what happens underground stays underground,” she added.
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