In June of 1994, Fr Gianluigi Colombo, a Salesian Italian priest in charge of overseeing the operations of the Don Bosco Printing Press, was given permission by Don Bosco management to set up a “canteen” to support its employees. Fr Colombo made the request to address the concern of its employees not having access to good food during lunch break.
The employees not only got good food to satisfy their hunger but authentic, freshly-made Italian dishes in a “turo-turo” setting. The friendly, familiar atmosphere made the foreign dishes that were new to their palette, less intimidating and phenomenal beyond anything they had ever tasted before.
Starting with Italian coffee and gelato, the canteen eventually introduced wood-fire oven baked pizzas and homemade pasta. Fr Colombo’s kitchen eventually became a taste of heaven where tired and weary “souls” found comfort.
By June 2001, Amici di Don Bosco (Friends of Don Bosco) was legally established as a business entity to also serve the needs of students studying in Don Bosco. The “turo-turo” was now known to many as a self-service canteen and eventually opened its doors to a broader market. However, it wasn’t the requirements of the printing press nor of the students of Don Bosco alone that kept Amici di Don Bosco’s stove burning.
News of great Italian cuisine prepared and served by priests and “ordinary people” inside a canteen spread like wildfire, attracting patrons from all over Metro Manila. From humble beginnings, the printing press cafe became known for authentic Italian pizza, pasta, and gelato.
Initially believing that it was the good Italian food that drew in the crowds, the employees eventually realized that they offered something much more. Customers experienced a certain warmth and charm whenever they came; where the staff treated each and every customer with special attention. People from all walks of life: expatriates and celebrities, white and blue-collar workers, housewives and socialites, flocked to Makati to experience Amici di Don Bosco. Every day, from 11am to 2pm, this inconveniently located “hole-in-the-wall” along Pasay Road would be packed with lines of patrons waiting to be seated!
Perhaps the novelty of the paradoxical situation became an attraction; Italian cuisine in a canteen setting, warm and excellent service by people who had no formal training: former carpenters, printing press laborers, and priests. Everyone was willing to share tables, eat using mismatched utensils, appreciate the same good food, and enjoy the same ambience of chaos brought about by good friends and family at the table!
This is the “magic” of Amici di Don Bosco!
Today, we at Amici are committed to continue the spirit of the original Amici di Don Bosco of bringing the authentic Italian dining experience that good friends and family will always enjoy.