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La Scala rocks

Where generations create memories while bonding over food, collectibles, Elvis, and Frank


By Sol Vanzi


Although my grand-son Kyle has lived with me all his 25 years, our 47-year-gap is often difficult to bridge no matter how hard I try to keep up with the latest gadgets, apps, hugot lines, and social media trends. Last weekend, we suddenly found ourselves communicating. He was asking all kinds of questions and I had all the right answers.

We were at La Scala, a couple of blocks from our home, gaping at a well-kept collection of what used to be everyday objects from the gentle years after World War II.

I explained how a jukebox, on display in a glass case, worked. He laughed at how I used to save my baon so I could hang around a panciteria in Zapote to play Elvis songs on the only jukebox in town.


An all-steel Underwood, which Kyle called “a keyboard with printer” brought flashbacks of my first jobs at the Saturday Mirror and Women’s magazines. An 8-mm film projector resembled 16-mm equipment at Channel 5 and ABS-CBN.

Gleaming stainless microphones, giant glossy Hollywood photographs, and various memorabilia collected from around the world kept Kyle on his feet for hours, scrutinizing, and photographing everything like he were an alien just visiting from a far-away planet.

All this time, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra kept everyone in the restaurant humming songs from long ago.


Kyle was not the only grandchild in the room. There were tables occupied by three generations—some groups are in KTV rooms celebrating something-or-another.

Venerable-looking gentlemen dres-         sed in jackets, sports coats, and ties turned out to be distinguished officers of civic groups, community leaders, physicians, and businessmen. Many came with their wives and children. An air of friendship and welcome enveloped the place.


Matching the warm ambience is the array of homecooked favorites from several continents: Asia, Europe, Middle East, North, and South America.

We started with gambas: plump peeled white prawns bathed in olive oil, coarse black pepper, and fresh garlic. There’s just enough garlic to flavor, not overpower, the shrimps. The scant liquid at the bottom of the earthenware bowl was so good I had to stop myself from licking the container clean.

The most popular paella a la Valenciana came in a genuine made-in-Spain paellera of enameled metal, the only kind owner Crispin Go uses.

“Other paella pans produce paella with uneven or burnt crust that discriminating customers complain about. We’ve gone to the extent of handcarrying cooking utensils from abroad to ensure authenticity,” Go explained.

La Scala does not scrimp on ingredients either, generous portions of extra virgin olive oil and real saffron, fresh prawns and shellfish abound with each serving of the classic dish, which uses only whole grain imported rice.

Our filet mignon was perfectly medium-rare, complementing the bottle of Classico Cabernet Sauvignon Ventis Quero from Chile chosen by our dining companion and officemate Nate Barretto.

Good brewed coffee and fantastic desserts were perfect at dinner’s end. We lingered, relishing a rare evening of bonding in a nostalgic place that rocks for all ages.

La Scala Restaurant and Music Bar, 1711 M. Adriatico corner Malvar St., Malate, Manila, 02 400 6938. Open Monday to Saturday, 5 p.m. to 4 a.m.

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