Here’s a restaurant with fantastic food that speaks for itself, no billboard required – CUCI!. By its name, if you’re guessing that it’s connected to Cucinino, you’re right! Cuci (pronounced koo-see) is the younger, yet larger sister of Cucinino in Porta Vaga.
These establishments are operated by husband-and-wife team TJ and Celine. And having conversed with this dynamic duo, we found inspiration in their simple yet sweet story of their beginnings in Baguio’s food scene.
Starting small with the Cucinino stall in Porta Vaga, they stayed committed to delivering delectable dishes at an affordable price. They watched as their surroundings changed, with other stalls coming and going. They kept with the trends and used the rising digital age to their advantage. And with lots of patience and careful planning, their hard work paid off for their next restaurant in Baguio named Cuci.
Keeping with the tradition of food that is fresh and made from scratch, Cuci offers more dishes to choose from, such as rice meals, pizzas, and cafe drinks, while also keeping the ever favorite pastas from Cucinino.
One of the pizzas is the Sardine Pizza (PHP 145). Though the sardines are expectedly salty, this 8-inch pizza is topped with cherry tomatoes that burst in your mouth, balancing out the saltiness. When served hot, the thin crust is enjoyably crisp and crunchy. With the olives and cheese giving it even more overwhelming flavor, this pizza is great for sharing.
If you love pesto and seafood, then you’ll love the Shrimp and Squid Scampi (PHP 150). Though the dish we tried had a slight variation – instead of squid, we had scallops. Either way, the basil, cheese, and garlic with the shrimps and scallops puts this pasta dish on a whole new level from their regular pasta dishes. And according to their menu, they also have a Vigan Longganisa Spaghetti that we would love to try out in our next visit!
Sometimes, you can even have the option of ordering a dish that’s off the menu, just like the Pork Belly with Wild Mushroom Sauce (PHP 180). Available with either mashed potatoes and rice, this dish is rich with herbful flavor. The pork is tender, and just a right amount of sauce will maximize its smoky flavor.
This is not a drill. The Cuci Special Hot Choco (PHP 75), in our opinion, is one of the best hot chocos in town. We kid you not. Topped with whipped cream and drizzled in chocolate syrup, the hot choco gives a good and sweet feeling in your tummy after a nice salty meal.
The Peach Passion Slush (PHP 80) is one of the few fruity drinks on their menu. The fruity combination of peach and passion fruit makes a tropical addition to your dining course.
For a cold variation of the hot choco, the Double Chocolate Frappe is the way to go. Also topped with whipped cream, chocolate syrup and sprinkles, we’re not sure, but it had either nuts, nougat or white chocolate swirling inside it to make it even more extra. For 105 pesos, it’s a good deal! The two other frappe options available come in Vanilla or Oreo.
Just like its smaller counterpart, Cuci’s ambiance also gives off rustic feels. With its red brick, exposed steel and woods furnishings, its industrial interior design remains classic. TJ, who takes an interest in photography, also has his photographs on display.
Fun fact: If you plan on having a work or chill excursion at the next door EZPZ Cafe, you can order your food from Cuci and take it with you inside.
More than just a new, yet familiar, must-try restaurant, it warms our hearts to see that a mall-based stall has come a long way. Aspiring business owners might want to take a page out of the book of Cuci’s story about hard work and patience.
And the next time someone asks you, “coffee, tea, or me?”, tell them to take you to Cuci! Find them on the second floor of Station 120, Lower General Luna Road, open from 10am to 9pm.