Bellini’s – a Tasty Blast from the Past

Casual Italian dining at its most quaint

“Why don’t we try Bellini’s?”, my wife Amy asked. We had just finished our business at the government center at Ali Mall and were looking for a nice place for lunch. Some friends happened to mention this Italian restaurant snuck away in Cubao Expo. With the aid of Google Maps, we learned that Cubao Expo was a mere 10 minute walk from Ali Mall.

Ali Mall was the sosyal mall north of Makati during my teenage years. I remember the place fondly but its best days are clearly behind it. In fact, all the buildings in the General Romulo Avenue area have seen better days. As we walked towards the Cubao Expo, there was a lot of demolition and construction happening to make way for a major Empire East real estate project.

When we got to Cubao Expo, we were almost magically transported to a place lost in time. The rows of boutique stores in the U-shaped street were quirky and artsy at the same time and clearly a throwback to the hippy 70’s. I fell in love with the place instantly.

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We found Bellini’s in the inner sanctum of Cubao Expo. A four-foot replica of the Tower of Pisa stood by the entrance minus the famous tilt. Inside the restaurant, the ambiance was warm and kitschy. I knew it was going to be a fun lunch.

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The menu

We ordered a variety of antipasti from the buffet setting that happened to be just three feet from our table – it was a delightful combination of Italian and local ingredients.The focaccia was warm, fresh and delish – enough for us to order a second loaf! The sardines was simply heavenly.

As we were savoring the antipasti, an old caucasian gentlemen approached our table and tried to strike a conversation with me, presumably trying to ask about how we liked the food. He spoke in a rather anxious tone in what sounded to be Italian with a smattering of English. I think I smiled reassuringly and said something like the food was fine. He also looked somewhat distracted and left as quickly as he appeared. I asked the waiter who the man was and the waiter explained that the man was Roberto, the owner of the restaurant.

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Yummy antipasti sampler

The main course consisted of pasta and pizza mainly because we had all the kids with us. I was anticipating an authentic Italian meal (having met Roberto) and was toying with idea of pairing some red wine with lunch. I’m not too fond of Italian wines, though. Instead, I ordered a limoncello and asked for it to be served together with the main course rather than as an after-meal digestivo. The main course was good but mostly nothing out of the ordinary and I was glad about having the (extra-strong) limoncello  to make things more interesting. That said, the tasty Fettuccine Tartufo Funghi con Prosciuto is probably something I would order again the next time around.

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Limoncello

We are a family of sweet teeth. That meant that we had to sample some of the desert offerings, as always. And the coffee. Nonetheless, I was too full already to truly appreciate the sweets.

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Kitschy decor

Tearing the old landmarks down now
Paving over brave little parks
Ah nothing lasts for long
Nothing lasts for long
– Chinese Cafe by Joni Mitchell

Play 2 Listen to Joni Mitchell’s Chines Cafe/Unchained Melody

The decor and the ambiance made me feel somewhat wistful. I drove a VW Beetle back in the day. I discovered the country and myself riding that Beetle.  As I left the restaurant and the Cubao Expo I also felt a bit fretful that this oh-so-charming place might be gone soon. We all know what happened to heritage sites such as the old art deco Jai Alai building (demolished by Lito Atienza) and several heritage sites along Escolta (demolished by Erap Estrada). Why even the old C.O.D. Department Store which had moving Christmas mannequin displays for half a century next door to the Cubao Expo is sadly gone.

I can only wish that the Empire East and other nearby real estate developments will not gobble up this quaint cultural throwback. If you are interested, make sure you visit soon.

Finger icon Visit the Bellini’s Facebook site

Struggles of the Morning Man

She’s working a midnight grind

Dressed in white by the dawn’s eerie light

She reaches my cobwebbed mind

She brews us up some coffee

And pulls the covers off me

Morning man, doesn’t take much to wake me

Just you shake your morning man

I’ve been dreaming of how you’ll wake me

Since this endless night began

Rupert-Holmes

Rupert rising to the 5 am skies

I was listening to a collection of old songs and one familiar tune from 1980 struck me. I guess I was listening to the song with a pair of fresh ears, so to speak. That song is called “Morning Man” and was written by the multi-talented Pointing finger Rupert Holmes.

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This poignant track was penned long before the era of the Philippine call center but it could well have been written for the couples who live under the same roof but in different time zones just because one spouse works in a call center. There’s an almost aching despondency that you hear in the song.  Couples in that distraught situation must feel it every time they kiss hello-goodbye in the morning and in the evening – being together and yet apart.
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Time for work

Companies may call the extra pay they give their employees “night differential” or some similar name. I think I will call that something extra “Morning Man Pay” or “Endless Night Pay”  to remind us better of the trade-off that families make so that one of the spouses can take a graveyard shift in a call center.

When Patrick Pichette retired as CFO of Google, he wrote in a Pointing finger parting memo that he looked forward  to not having to make tough choices and  constant trade offs, especially between business/professional endeavors and family/community anymore. Amen, say the heroic thousands in the graveyard shift.
Maraming salamat, Rupert Holmes.

Try Something in 30 days| TED in 3 minutes

What are you waiting for? Go for the mini-adventure already!

A grassroots Kaizen Program is a great idea because it strengthens the process improvement muscle of an organization.  The so-called big, transformational projects are all destined to fail unless each individual in the organization can carry his own weight in that top-down mega-project.

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Can you carry your own weight?

Nevertheless for an organization in a big hurry to achieve its transformation objectives, a program to embed a Kaizen culture presents a catch-22 situation. Creating the Kaizen culture is a transformational exercise in its own right.

One idea to sidestep the catch-22 is to introduce a Quick and Easy Kaizen or a mini-Kaizen – process improvement in 6 easy to remember steps. The technique then needs to be quickly applied by every member of the organization in order to embed the learning. This presents a problem in itself because enough projects need to be identified to allow for meaningful participation by everyone.

Read about Quick and Easy Kaizen here

I have this off-the-wall idea that not everyone in an organization need to actively participate in formal process improvement projects in order to strengthen their process improvement muscle. For many in the organization,  the best path to muscle building may be by introducing a self-improvement program through one of the more popular employee clubs and launched by a well-known adventurer/motivational speaker who will give a TED in 3 Minutes talk similar to this one by Matt Cutts encouraging his audience to Pointing finger  Try Something New for 30 Days. When the idea that trying to stick with a small change  everyday can be meaningful, productive and fun catches on in the organization, Kaizen will also be well understood. Matt talks about biking to work and writing a bad novel. For others, it can be trying out a new vegetable (or a new beer) for lunch everyday. It can be learning to dance Zumba. Whatever floats your boat – just as long as its something new.

TED TalksInterested to hear what practitioners think.

Play 2Listen to Nikki Yanofsy’s Something New

Reflecting on the Article: Robin Williams Lived Intensely

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.

 –  Robin Williams

In process management, we talk about the importance of mindset. It is never enough that the company’s quality experts working together with external consultants design the optimal process.

The process owner and his team need to learn a thing or two from Robin Williams. As the following article suggests, to master the art of [process] execution the process team members need to exist in a collective id – naturally aiming with insatiable intensity to please the clients of the process, almost imploring the client to be delighted.

Inside the head of a well-chosen and well-trained process owner, the right mindset is not just a virtue – it is a gift.

Thank you, Robin Williams for living intensely and setting the attitudinal metrics for satisfying a process’ audience – its clients and other stakeholders.

Source: Inside Flipboard

Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Photo credit:Inside Flipboard

You will be missed in more ways than you could ever have imagined, Robin.

Read Robin Williams Lived Intensely in The Atlantic

Robin Williams

Robin Williams and Wayne Brady sing about air traffic control

 

An Animated Explanation Of Why Music Makes You Happy

I found this interesting video article about how dopamine can induce happiness – principally through food, sex, and drugs but also through music. I thought that it will be appropriate to repost the article here (This blog is about all the stuff that we enjoy, remember?).

Play 2Watch the Video: An Animated Explanation of Why Music Makes You Happy

I was a senior in high school when I watched the “rockumentary”, The Kids are Alright, featuring The Who. I was with my friends who all noticed that the scent of marijuana was so strong as we stepped inside the movie house in Cubao. Not having smoked pot, I breathed in deeply to try to detect the whiff that my friends noticed instantly. I just couldn’t.

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I’ve forgotten a whole lot about  high school but I do recall the psychedelic images and the decibel levels from the movie. Tell me, can it be the effect of  My Generation together with the waft of air  that afternoon?

p.s., I am not claiming the Bill Clinton defense here. I inhaled but I just wasn’t sure that I inhaled properly.

p.p.s., The movie came out in 1979. Go ahead and work out my age.

Play 2Listen to The Who The Kids Are All Right

 

 

 

Lessons from American Pie

I get to watch live concerts quite rarely – even those of my all-time favorite artists. I missed David Gates’ concert at the Araneta Coliseum in 2004, for instance. It says a lot then when I manage to watch all the concerts of an artist in Manila ever. I watched Don McLean’s concert at the Folk Arts theater in 1982. I enjoyed that mildly. I felt that McLean was trying much too hard to project the artistry in his body of work.

Nonetheless, I watched him again at Araneta in 2011. This time around, the 68-year old folk artist poignantly revealed to his Manila audience that whenever he performed in a city as part of his recent world tour, he was always conscious that that  moment may be the last time he will be visiting that part of the world. He played and he sang relishing every moment with the crowd. And I enjoyed that immensely. And – what the heck – I resolved not to miss any more concerts of my teenage pop idols. Life is simply too short.

So when the Rocket Man hit town in 2012, I was there close to the front row to watch and sing along. If I did not lose my mobile phone 5 months ago, I would have posted here all the excellent photos that I took of that December evening.

The other half of the Bread’s songwriting duo, James Arthur Griffin of Memphis, is someone I would have surely watched if he came to perform in our shores. But he joined Jim Croce, Mary Travers and John Denver in the Great Studio in the Sky in 2005. The haunting melody, “For All We Know” is one of his best-known songs. I heard Just Say When a few years ago and listening to this poignant number makes me wonder why only the good die young.

James Griffin

But coming back to Don, many of his songs serve as emotional milesposts in my life. As a callow twelve year old, I learned about both joy and pain from the American Pie album: Crossroads, Winterwood, Empty Chairs, Sister Fatima, Babylon, The Grave….

They walk one road to set them free
And find they’ve gone the wrong direction.
But there’s no need for turning back
Cause all roads lead to where I stand

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When I first lived outside of the country, I would often play Mountains of Mourne on my guitar as I pined for the islands.

But for all that I’ve found there, I might as well be
In the place where the dark Mourne sweeps down to the sea

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Don, I do not know if you will ever be back in these parts but your music is forever etched in my soul. And for that, I thank you.

The Path of Water

It is said that leadership is thrust upon a person, much like a surging tide looms over a boatman or a rafter. The boatman needs to accept that the oncoming force cannot be changed and focus on how to catch the wave instead. The analogy in the quoted article below is similar. As Carly Simon sang in 1989, Play 2Let the River Run

Rafting

Photo credit Tushky Tales

The Path of Water

August 15, 2009 at 12:24am

Can a two millenia old concept like Taoism provide a perspective on change? Check out this blog: THE PATH OF WATER – 21st Century Taoism

Hidden-Falls_21 courtesy Mountain to Sea Workshops

Photo credit Mountain to Sea Workshops

This blog concludes thus:

What does Taoism teach us about dealing with change? Change is inevitable. It can be held at bay for a time through effort, but it can never be stopped. In following Taoism we try to experience and understand our true inner nature. Using the analogy of water (well the clue’s in the name of the Blog!) if we are in a river we can cling for as long as we can to the sides before our strength fails and we are swept helplessly downstream by the current. Or, through self-knowledge and self-confidence, we can embrace the flow of the river, let the current take us, and use our strength and skill at appropriate moments to avoid any rocks in our path. The latter is the Taoist way, but be warned! It can be scary.