Rarely do we associate life’s pleasures with spirituality. In fact, for most of us faithful, they seem to be on the opposite ends of the spectrum. While enjoying food isn’t actually sinful, the virtues of simplicity and charity seem to go against our urge to indulge in gastronomic pleasures. But enjoying food need not equate to gluttony, and we can always find other ways to celebrate our faith and be charitable.
Going to church and dining out after service is actually a common tradition among many Filipino families. But for a new café in Quezon City, mixing food with religion has been a good combination. In fact, the café is right inside the church compound. Café Inggo 1587 is coffee shop and restaurant inside the Santo Domingo Church compound. Serving coffee and Spanish and Filipino favorites, the café has had much success and enjoys a loyal following. What used to be a coffee shop that served just coffee and cakes, Café Inggo 1587 now serves a host of local and Spanish-inspired dishes, consistent with our local heritage as a previous Spanish colony.
The brains and brawn behind Café Inggo is former seminarian and former hotelier Vic Alcuaz. Alcuaz, himself a product of Dominican education, has been in the travel and hospitality industry all his life. And although running a restaurant of his own was never his plan, it still came quite naturally with his background in hospitality. With an invitation from friar friends from the Order of Preachers, Alcuaz decided to take over from the space’s previous tenants and put his own signature on the new café concept.
Café Inggo’s interiors are of course, Dominican themed. A beautiful bust and a painting of Saint Dominic seem to stand guard as diners enjoy the food and drinks being served.
Even the wait staff wear a white hooded uniform, inspired by the colors and cut of the Dominican friars’ habit. Vic Alcuaz also decorated the café with his own collection of church sketches and other items like antique books. Of course, as pretty and as inviting as the interiors may be, as they say, the proof is in the eating, so I, together with other media guests, indulged in Café Inggo’s specialty dishes. The carefully curated dishes were created by Chef Willy Domingo, a veteran chef and former colleague of Vic Alcuaz at Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. Specializing in Filipino and Spanish food, the menu is a collection of favorite home-style dishes and other Spanish and European specialties.
We were served with a few of their most popular dishes and, among them, my favorites were the Fabada Asturiana, Pinaasimang Lechon Kawali, and their Bacalao àla Vizcaina. Owing to Chef Willy’s talent and experience, every dish they served was actually really good; but if I had to choose one, I’d come back again and again for the Fabada. The rich and savory Spanish bean stew just goes perfectly with the crusty bread they serve on the side.
Café Inggo 1587 is yet another reason to visit the beautiful Sto. Domingo Church this Lenten season. While doing your Visita Iglesia, try to drop by the café to enjoy some coffee and merienda or stay for lunch or dinner. It’s a good opportunity to go to church and leave not just full of blessings but with a full belly too.