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The good life at Michel’s Deli & Cafe

/ 07:08 AM October 12, 2013

BEYOND their affluence and cosmopolitan tastes, bon vivants Michel and Amparito Lhuillier take delight in leading Cebu in its gastronomic pursuits. Proponents of the Chaine des Rotisseurs in Cebu , Michel sits as Bailli Délégué Philippines while Amparito is Bailli de Cebu. But more than food connoisseurs, they are into the business of food itself.

Michel’s Deli & Café opened almost simultaneously with La Casa de Amparito, a revival of her popular restaurant in the 80s.

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Amparito added that the original classic dishes are offered with the addition of more international choices. I spent an afternoon with two jovial Italian chefs of Michel’s Deli & Café located in One Paseo Saturnino along Maria Luisa Road in Banilad, Cebu City. The delicatessen is a treasure trove of mostly imported choices of cheeses, cold cuts, sausages, hams, pates as well as gourmet canned and bottled foods, beverages and wines, including the house brand Michel Lhuliier’s cabernet sauvignon, merlot cabernet and chardonnay from France, and more of his labels come from Spain and Italy. I was told that the croissants are imported from France, and all other breads are freshly (house) baked daily, like baguette, assorted sweet rolls, and Italian breads.

General Manager Chef Massimo La Magna has been with the Lhulliers since 2010. A holiday trip brought him to Cebu where he met the Lhuilliers. Aside from the Deli & Cafe, he also runs the Lhuilliers’ Pizzeria Michelangelo beside the deli. The Pizzeria has branches in Escario Central and one in Davao City. Assisting him is Chef Daniele Di Dio who assumed his post only last June. Both in their 30s, these Italian chefs are from Palermo, on the north coast of Sicily. They come from typical Italian families where the grandmothers are good cooks. Chef Daniele’s family owned an osteria, where simple Italian food is served. While they both studied culinary in Palermo, Chef Massimo also studied in France and Spain and worked in Tunisia (North Africa). Incidentally, Chefs Daniele and Massimo are childhood friends.

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Michel’s Deli & Café offers classic Italian and Mediterranean dishes. Chef Daniele went in and out of the open kitchen as he prepared a few of the dishes in the menu. We started with Grilled Salmon with Truffle Sauce. The deli carries the bottled Tartufata truffle sauce, which Chef Daniele used to create the dish. A plate of Pork Steak on Vegetables followed. The meat was tender and juicy. Lamb Stew on Couscous (granules of durum wheat) served with extra sauce was excellent. Chef Daniele said he used paprika and cumin for the stew. Couscous is a staple food throughout the North African cuisines of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania and Libya. To seal a satisfying late lunch, Chef Massimo proudly presented his French desserts—Macaron de Paris and Crème Brulee. A freshly brewed cup of Italian coffee to go with the exquisite sweets was ambrosia!

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