You’ve grown up, and so has Ponti

Il Ponticello Gastrolounge


For a good number of people in their twenties and thirties, Ponti holds a special meaning. Whether it was watching the Overtones and downing buy-one take-one azzurri shakers, or stumbling your way down the stairwell, there’s always a memory or three that lives on.

As Ken Filomeno described it in a story about clubs and bars we used to love, “Ponti was the old man who simply refused to die.”

At the time of Ken’s writing though, Ponti was on its final days. For a certain generation of night owls, the sun was setting on a cultural icon.

Turns out, Ken couldn’t have been more prophetic. The old man did really refuse to die, because, amazingly, stubbornly, Ponti is back.

The location is still the same, and some of the favorites — the aforementioned azzurri — are still there. But for the most part, it’s a different Ponti now. And that’s not a bad thing, because you’re probably a different you, too. (It’s officially called the Il Ponticello Gastrolounge.)

“If you went to the old Ponti, you probably remember the searing heat, the smoke, and the packed crowd,” said Steve Magdaraog, the managing partner for Ponti. The new owners are composed of five partners, completely different from the old ownership.

“It’s really a place that people remember for the good times, and we wanted to bring that back.”


Same DNA, just a makeover

The dreary ambience, the restrooms located out in the hallway, the smoke-filled air — they’ve all given way to a cleaner, sophisticated, and more grown-up version of Ponti. There’s a restroom inside, finally.

In the same way that you probably don’t have the same party-endurance and miraculous next-day recovery abilities, Ponti doesn’t go hard every night either. They serve last call during weekdays at what was previously the start call for parties, 12 a.m. The weekends are a different story though — packed crowds arrive for the 90′s music.

But despite the spruced up interiors, Magdaraog admits that they are still trying to strike a balance between old and new.

“The DNA of Ponti is still there, but we’ve given it a makeover,” said Magdaraog.

“If you go back to the really early days of Ponti, it was known as a restaurant, and we’re trying to bring that back as well. Ponti is first and foremost a restaurant, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun here.”

The makeover includes an all new menu, and even the staff has received an overhaul: only two holdovers remain from the old Ponti.

Giulio Gongarini, who hails from Genoa, Italy and is the General Manager, explained that the focus has been on the food.

“The menu has been completely revamped, and we have really taken to its Italian roots, where the emphasis is on the quality of the ingredients we use — straightforward Italian cuisine,” said Gongarini.

“If you look at the location, this area has always been missing a good spot for Italian food.”

The new Il Ponticello only opened its doors May 23, and is still operating under a “soft opening” label. A grand opening is being targeted for sometime in September.

“We’re probably going to trim down the food selections, and increase our selection of single malt whiskeys, and we’re also trying to partner up with more brands for signature cocktails,” said Magdaraog, the managing partner.

In the meantime, the partners have other big plans for Ponti moving forward. They also introduced a special table that can be booked in advance for a totally custom culinary experience.



“It’ll be a complete package, where the food will be specially-designed, each dish will be introduced, and you’ll even get to meet the chef,” said Gongarini.

While the space does not currently have the facilities to hold live bands, Magdaraog wouldn’t rule out the possibility completely.

“I’m not going to promise anything, but if we were to bring back a band, even for just one night, I think people will want it to be the Overtones,” said Magdaraog.

“It’s really fun to see when people who went to the old Ponti return and they see this new place. They always point out to areas, ‘this is where I fought with my girlfriend’ or ‘or this is where we had too many shots.’”

Il Ponticello Gastrolounge is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday, and is open for dinner Saturday.

2nd Flr., Antel Corporate Centre, 121 Valero St., Salcedo Village 1227 Makati, Philippines. (02) 553 9971 (02) 994 9512.