Lifestyle Must Eats

Italian cuisine and French wine converge at Shangri-La Mactan’s Acqua restaurant

By: - May 12, 2023

There is a treasure trove of reasons why Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort and Spa has retained its position as a premier destination in the Cebu tourism map.

Shangri-La Mactan has always been good with food but I believe – and I mean this wholeheartedly – that it is its people who make for the guests’ best experiences.

One of these reasons presented itself one blissful night when topnotch Italian cuisine paired with the finest wines from France’s Rhône Valley region brought the dining experience to a whole new gastronomic level.

The scene of this epicurean indulgence was Acqua, Shangri-La Mactan’s haven for superb offerings of Italian cuisine, which recently welcomed its new Italian chef, Luca D’Amora.

Luca d’ Amora the new Italian head chef of Shangri-La Mactan Cebu Resort.

I literally hopped from the drop off point at the Ocean Wing of the property to Acqua with much anticipation to reunite with my friends from the industry most of whom I have not seen for three years now since Covid-19 disrupted our social calendar.

 Zee Magazine’s Amy Undaloc and Shangri-La Mactan’s marketing manager Gabe Llanto were already enjoying three kinds of canapes along with Luc Baudet Cotes Du Rhone “Rive Droite” Blanc 2021 when I arrived. There was Dr. Nestor Alonzo of The Freeman, whom I have always exchanged friendly and funny banters in between courses in previous dining fares.

I was seated far from Gabe, Sir Nestor, and Amy but I found worthwhile seatmates in Manolet Heredia to my left and Sofia Yu, SunStar Cebu’s intern from the University of the Philippines Cebu, who was comfortably stationed across where I was seated.

The conversation took off with Sofia and I’s shared academic journey at UP Cebu but it was interrupted by the server’s gentle voice informing us of the next course to partake in.

Shangri-La Mactan Acqua

Cuttlefish salad with marinated onions, avocado and puffed rice

Stimulating the appetite for what I anticipated to be a multi-sensory course dinner is cuttlefish salad with marinated onions, avocado and puffed rice served with Clos des Centenaires Roussane Blanc 2020. Golden yellow in color with notes of linden flowers and citrus fruits, this white wine hit the right spot as Manolet quipped about my name and the American tennis player I was named from minus the letter “h.”


The single appetizer delight came in the form of scallop carpaccio, green apple, chamomile with malibu jelly, and asparagus crudites paired with Clos des Centennaires Art Blanc 2019. This white wine came in unassuming with floral aroma and notes of pear that brought out a fresh, juicy finish.

Married to an Italian American who also loves to cook, I have learned in the last 11 years that you can never go wrong with risotto. Chef Luca elevated that experience with his rendering of risotto, cherry, walnuts and duck leg glazed with star anise and port wine.

Two reds came with the risotto —  Luc Baudet Cotes Du Rhône “Rive Droite” Rouge 2019 and Clos des Centenaires Grenache Vieilles Vignes Rouge 2020. The former gave away the combined scent of raspberry and strawberry that reminded me of our neighbor back in Kalispell, Montana who would stick his head by the front gate to simply say: “Feel free to pick as many raspberries as you want from my garden.” This variety has a fruity, supple, and long-smooth finish. I dare judge this one as my favorite.

My next best favorite is Clos des Centenaires Grenache Vieilles Vignes Rouge 2020. The red wine sat there in my glass waiting, calling for me to consume it. It gave off that silky elegance that was enough to tell me that I made the smart decision to cross the Mandaue-Mactan  bridge to get to Lapu-Lapu City from Cebu City.

Shangri-La MActan Acqua

A wine pairing event were select guests, patrons, and friends from the media gathered to indulge in an exquisite feast featuring wines from Rhône Valley winemaker, Luc Baudet.

In the middle of sipping and savoring, Gabe and Amy walked up to my corner of the room to trade life updates. Shortly after, renowned winemaker and oenologue Luc Baudet joined our circle and openly shared the wonders of Rhône Valley wines.  (An oenologue is an expert in the science and study of wine and winemaking.)

“We are sharing French culture in a bottle. We are happy and honored to bring these wines here… to share them to this part of the world,” he shared.

Luc emphasized freshness and saltiness as unique qualities of the wines which were made from grapes that are grown in a terrain with red clay and pebbles.

The price range of the wines is reasonable, he said. Indeed, they are. If you don’t believe me, head on to the website of wine importer and wine distributor Happy Living ( to check the prices.

The evening was far from over as we ventured further deep into Chef Luca’s creations and Rhône Valley wines.

The writer (far left) with Shangri-La Mactan Island Resort and Spa Marketing Manager Gabrielle Lanto (far right) and Amy Undaloc of Zee Magazine (center).

A plate filled with cuberoll wagyu with potato, brussel sprouts, and black garlic mayo arrived without me knowing because I was busy sharing to Manolet how it was to live in Montana, USA surrounded by canola and wheat farms and how wonderful it was to just cross the border to Canada in the weekends. Clos des Centenaires Art Rouge 2018, which was opened that night for each and every guest to savor, summarized the experience with tight tannins and powerful notes of black fruits.

Shangri-La Mactan Acqua

Shangri-La Mactan’s Acqua.

There was supposedly no room for desserts but we were served with ricotta mousse, sherry-soaked blackberry, almond meringue, and dark chocolate. What human being will refuse such a sweet masterpiece?

A thousand and one claps for Chef Luca for preparing a wonderful course that combined well with the wines from Rhône Valley. His 15-year intensive and extensive experience in Italian cuisine across Italy, London, India, and Mauritius working five-star hotels and Michelin-starred establishments was evident with what he offered to us that night.

It is important to note here that Chef Luca is a Napoli native who grew up in a home with a wood-burning oven and a grandfather who made pizzas on Sundays so should you have a flair for the authentic Napoli pizza, Acqua is the place to be.

Fireworks lit up the sky as we wrapped up the night. The wedding entourage outside uttered “oohs” and “aahs” as multi-colored sparks engulfed the night sky in that part of Mactan. We took pictures as a group and exchanged endless hugs and threw wishes of a similar gathering in the future because there is no better alternative to sitting, sipping, and exchanging stories and laughter with living and breathing human beings.

Shangri-La Mactan Acqua

Media friends with Shangri-La Mactan’s Director for Operations Somik Banerjee (second from left).

Shangri-La Mactan has always been good with food but I believe – and I mean this wholeheartedly – that it is its people who make for the guests’ best experiences.

Director for Operations Somik Banerjee and Food and Beverage Director John Kow have every right to be proud of what they have accomplished that night.

It is a mortal sin to forget extending congratulations to the team of restaurant manager Eloisa Capicenio who delivered with talent and heart that is both sincere and impeccable.

I am certain that with Chef Luca at the helm of Acqua and the addition of Rhône Valley wines in its gastronomic repertoire, dining experience at Shangri-La Mactan will always be an experience to behold and cherish.


A Seaside Rendezvous in Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu

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