MANILA, SEPTEMBER 26, 2006 (STAR) By Jen Vega The Freeman - Where else can you find truly delicious and distinctive Filipino dishes here in Cebu than in Café Laguna? They house the great if not the best gastronomic treat, well-prepared and freshly cooked food for the discriminating taste bud.

A little of history: In 1979, Dr. Ricardo Urbina, a military physician, moved to Cebu together with his family from the province of Laguna. Julita, his wife, was so engrossed learning, inventing and improving food recipes in the kitchen. She got the culinary DNA from her mother (who operated a carenderia in Manila at that time), who taught her the ABC's in cooking.

With her consuming passion, as well as the numerous positive feedbacks from everyone who tasted her dishes, Lita finally started Café Laguna along Veteran's Drive in 1991. Located in Lahug, it was a small restaurant with six to 10 tables. Indeed, great things start from small beginnings. Their business slowly expanded. Now, they got four outlets, with Cagayan de Oro as their first franchise. They have also gone into full catering services. The whole family is hands-on in manning all the outlets and the catering concerns. They started with puto bongbong (their signature dish), palabok, fresh lumpia, and dinuguan during their prime years in the food industry. Later on, as the demand in the market increased, they ventured into more food choices on their menu. They are now known not only for their merienda but also for their crispy pata, sinigang, fried chicken wrapped in pandan leaves and a whole lot more to choose from.

"We maintain the quality of our food and we use the best ingredients," claims Madame Julita when asked on Café Laguna's distinction from other Filipino restaurants, considering the stiff competition. "We make sure that the taste of our dishes remains the same on our costumer's every visit," adds Jill Urbina Viado, the store manager of Café Laguna-Ayala Center Cebu.

Café Laguna has been catering to high-end functions like those of the governor's events and during President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Cebu visits. They are also capable of preparing HALAL dishes - specific requirements in Muslim cuisine.

Given these details on how Café Laguna started, one can surmise that it has stood the test of time and competition, despite the mushrooming of dining havens in the metro. Well, Café Laguna's success shows that great food and commendable service really count!

On September 28, celebrate with Café Laguna on their 12th Anniversary for their outlet at Ayala Center Cebu and 7th year for their Laguna Garden outlet. They will have a lunch and dinner buffet with onsite cooking and grilling on that day. Laguna delicacies are also available like espasol, guinumis, palitao, etc. Included in their business expansion is the birthing of Lemongrass - Vietnamese and Thai cuisine - another family business.

For reservations, call Jill Viado at 231-0922 (Café Laguna Ayala) or Grace Urbina Absin (Laguna Garden) at 233-8600/02.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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