New QC fine dining resto Bocca boasts ‘accessible luxury’

Owner Otty Lumagui envisions the restaurant to be a place where people gather for good food and ‘purposeful and meaningful conversations.’

Bocca is easy to miss—maybe because it sits in what is still a quiet corner of Bridgetowne, a new township that straddles the border between Quezon City and Pasig. 

Bocca sits in a quiet corner of Bridgetowne, a new township that straddles the border between Quezon City and Pasig. Photos by Johanna L. Añes-de la Cruz

But Bocca is a restaurant you shouldn’t miss. Its fine dining concept and posh interiors aside, at its core is food that’s not only indulgent but also comforting. 

Fine dining meets comfort

Despite opening its doors only last December, it refuses to be labeled as “trendy” or “hip,” shared owner Rosita Lara “Otty” Lumagui in a conversation with The Post

“The concept of this restaurant is really where people can strike discussions, find common interests, and network with each other. We like a more conservative, laidback kind of fine dining,” she explained.

Owner Rosita Lara “Otty” Lumagui (right) and daughter Pia

She added it’s their intention to merge fine dining and comfort, making the experience of luxury accessible, especially for busy people who are looking for a place where they can enjoy some privacy.

Despite this, the restaurant’s interior is something to marvel at—it’s effortlessly chic without being intimidating.

I can vouch for what Otty said that it’s indeed a place where I can imagine myself sharing conversations with friends over food—which, I’m happy to report, exceeds expectations—though more on that in a bit. 

A “pandemic baby”

Like many fledgling food businesses, Bocca traces its roots from the pandemic. For National Hamburger Day in 2021, Otty tried selling premium foie gras and Wagyu burgers inside their village. “I didn’t expect it to be a hit; demand got very high, and the rest is history.”

But Bocca wasn’t supposed to be a fine dining restaurant at first. “My husband was thinking of putting up a coworking space,” she shared. 

Recognizing how Filipinos always couple meetings of any sort with food gave birth to the current iteration of the restaurant: a place where people meet, talk, and eat good food.

This emphasis on being a place for conversations explains why Bocca has two function rooms clients can rent if they want a more private experience. 

There’s also a semi-private space that’s perfect for mid-size families or a group of friends to reserve for an intimate lunch or dinner.

Creative continental cuisine 

Now, let’s talk food.

When I first heard about Bocca, I thought they served Italian food, with the name being the Italian word for “mouth.” Otty clarified, however, that they serve contemporary continental cuisine.  

“Continental cuisine usually follows classical or traditional methods,” she said. “At Bocca, we infuse creativity into our cooking and plating to make our offerings more modern.”

Bocca’s head chef is the 32-year-old Center for Culinary Arts Manila alumnus
Edgar “Ed” Grafilo.

A quick glance at their menu revealed familiar French and Italian dishes, as well as an assortment of American burgers and steaks. 

They also have an impressive wine and spirits menu and a decent selection of coffee and cocktails. I tried their Spanish Latte and I have to say that I’m impressed.

But it was the food I was looking forward to the most. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Indulgent yet comforting food

Bocca goes beyond aesthetics. Sure, the restaurant itself is photogenic, but that’s only a most welcome bonus. It’s the food that lingers in my memory almost a month since my visit. 

True to its name, the focal point of the restaurant’s concept is the mouth. “The mouth is a very powerful part of the body. It’s the part of us from which our entire body is nourished. It’s what we use to express ourselves, engage with the world, and forge our relationships,” said Otty, who is also the business head of a new healthcare company.

“We want Bocca then to be a place where people gather not just for food, but also for purposeful and meaningful conversations,” she added.

Bocca does both so well. 

Otty works with Bocca’s head chef Edgar Grafilo in curating their offerings. The 32-year-old chef has been working the kitchens for exactly half his life, starting as a line cook when he was just 16 years old. 

The Center for Culinary Arts graduate’s palate has also been sharpened by his travels, thanks to years-long stints aboard a cruise ship and in the US.

It’s the young, energetic chef who adds the “contemporary” and “creativity” to Bocca’s mouthwatering offerings that are still anchored on traditional methods.

“We want every dish at Bocca to feel celebratory,” Otty enthused.

They delivered on this promise and some more when I swung by for lunch.

A lunch to remember

For starters, I had Wharf Chowder with Crayfish Crostini (P650), which is halibut poached in butter, fresh clams, sourdough crostini with crayfish, extra virgin olive oil, and microgreens. The halibut was so fresh it practically melted in my mouth. 

Wharf Chowder with Crayfish Crostini (P650)

Next on the list was the dish that started it all—Bocca’s well-loved Foie Burger Trio (P1,350). I’m not huge on burgers and I’m usually wary of dishes that seem to have so much going on, but Bocca’s pride deserves all the lovin’.

The three-blend burger patty was a marvel—moist and flavorful, with a deep beefy umami—it’s little wonder that it became an instant hit three years ago. 

The patty is made from a blend of 40 percent beef forequarter lean, 30 percent chuck, and 30 percent brisket. 

It’s sandwiched between soft and buttery Hokkaido brioche, and comes with aioli, arugula, Colby-Jack cheese, truffles, and of course, foie gras. It’s served with Grana Padano chips on the side that’s enlivened with a rich bourbon sauce.

This is the dish that fully encapsulates Bocca’s vision: indulgent yet comforting. 

The next course, I have to admit, was the one that I looked forward to the most: Truffle Cacio e Pepe (P880). And it was exactly how I expected it to be, with a few surprises thrown in.

The pasta (tagliatelle) was made fresh in-house, which complemented the richness of the sauce that’s made of pecorino romano, beurre monté, tartufata, pink pepper, and fine greens. 

What I loved about this dish was instead of just adding a sprinkle of cheese to finish, chef Ed opted for a more elaborate topping: a crisp cheese tuile made of Grana Padano, pecorino romano, and other secret cheeses and ingredients.

My second pasta dish was the Duck Rillette Tortelloni (P980), which is fresh tortelloni stuffed with duck confit, beurre noisette fava, and cauliflower, sprinkled with parmesan and carrot espuma, candied seeds and nuts, migas, and fine greens.

The next dish was cooked-to-perfection Halibut (P1,500) served with a sensational beet and dragon fruit gnocchi, lemon coulis, konbu beurre monté, fines herbes (canonical herbs in French cooking), microgreens, and pistachio. 

Cooked-to-perfection Halibut (P1,500) served with a sensational beet and dragon fruit gnocchi

The last savory course was the scene-stealing New York Strip (P6,350). The 28oz-USDA prime cut had the right tenderness that left some room for a solid chew which made me better relish its bold, beefy notes. 

The steak was nestled on a bed of bright chimichurri, and served with some crispy pommes pavé, beef jus, charred lemon, and sprinkled with Maldon salt. 

By the end of the meal I was already so full but I knew I had to try Bocca’s desserts which are specially made for them by the talented pastry chef Kevin Ong.

Sea Salt Taffy Caramel (top) and Chocolate Rocher (P680/order) by chef Kevin Ong

The Chocolate Rocher (P680) was as delightfully chocolatey as expected, but it was the Sea Salt Taffy Caramel (P680) which transported me to cake heaven. It was so good I remember finishing two slices. 

Partnership with Alliance Française de Manille

Otty was thrilled to share that Bocca is now an official member of Alliance Française de Manille’s (AFM) Club of Partners, joining other well-loved establishments dedicated to promoting French culture in the Philippines. 

With this, AFM members can enjoy the following perks upon presenting their membership card and one valid ID: Priority reservations, 10 percent discount on wines, and free use of private function rooms without minimum amount of consumables.

When asked about plans for the next few months, Otty replied: “We deeply value partnerships like this and have a few collab events, pop-ups, and cultural nights lined up for the year—so stay tuned!”

For more information and to check out their menu, follow Bocca on Instagram.

Associate Editor

The new lifestyle.