Belito's: Davao's best-kept secret

Subscribe Now May 29, 2014 at 10:04am

Years ago, I went to a well talked about place ran by Chef Richie Ferrazzini, whose passion for cooking made him convert his home garden in Davao into a nameless, informal restaurant where one has to pre-order the specialty, black paella. The five-table place was packed with people all anxiously waiting for this now iconic dish, forcing Richie to expand his little makeshift garden kitchen into a full restaurant, calling it Belito's.

I have seen this little eatery grow, and its still serving honest, hearty, home cooking for a loyal clientele—as it would take a first-timer to locate this place, tucked away as it is within the Bajada district.

Belito’s still feels casual, but Chef Richie has expanded his kitchen and remodeled it to look and feel country.

The paella negra is as consistent as it was years ago with its deep squid ink flavors, as the recipe still comes from what the kitchen extracts from their market-bought squid and not the commercially bottled squid ink. Normally, I would bring a spicy Spanish tempranillo or a soft Merlot or even a Carmenere to pair off with this dish. But Belito’s has a wider choice of wines now, as more and more customers have been clamoring for it.

The beer is served very cold and is a formidable companion for a lot of the items, such as the caldereta that can be ordered in three versions—goat, lamb, and beef. My idea of having a great dinner at Belito’s is bringing a bottle of red or getting one from there and starting out with gambas and salpicao. Both dishes have a good balance of olive oil, paprika, and garlic. Richie serves a slice of very tender lengua with a slightly sweet tinge, which is his grandmother’s recipe. For beef, it’s got to be his crispy ribs, or if one cares for steak, the house carries ribeye.

Theirs is not a static menu and moves by the seasons. You can also pre-order from the chef, like a well-rubbed and seasoned leg of lamb. Chef Richie on certain times of the year gets a supply of egg-laden balu (needlefish) and salts these to make local caviar that looks like golden beluga, as the very light amber eggs are rather large and almost as big as trout eggs. This summer, they have tornas, which is a white kind of dulong served in olive oil or Angulas style. (Sometimes it is best to ask the wait staff what is not on the regular menu, as I’ve always had these in my past visits.)

We also tried smoked fish such as malasugue or swordfish, ordered from a friend of Belito’s and made in small batches only.

Aside from the titillation that appeals to everyone’s sense of adventure in looking for this place, Belito’s is one of the best-kept secrets to both Davaoeños and visiting foodies.


« Tour guides gearing up for Asean integration Megaworld to build P1.2-B Finance Center in Davao »