They say that our feet may leave our home, but our hearts do not. In a way, that has been Al Purugganan’s journey as a restaurateur and chef.
As a restaurateur of 22 years, Al Purugganan has experienced all kinds of flavors. Many of his restaurants have been inspired by the cuisine of Southeast Asia, particularly of Thailand.
However, little did people know, his journey had begun with his roots: a Kapampangan restaurant inspired by where he had grown up. Due to the pandemic, unfortunately, this was shut down.
But this was not his final venture with Filipino cuisine. While he was raised in Pampanga, Al Purugganan, at home and in his heart, is a true-blooded Ilocano. After spending a couple of months exploring the cuisine of Northern Luzon, especially of the Ilocos region, Al Purugganan realized: he wanted to come home.
So came B.E.L. Iloco, a brand new restaurant that serves authentic, homemade and affordable Ilocano food, now open in the New Gateway Mall 2.
Stepping inside the open restaurant, it’s designed simply: the layout standard with the kitchen at the back and the seating up front, divided by a counter where you order.
However, the beauty is in the details. The counter is framed with playfully painted wooden pieces, carved similarly to the ornate designs of Vigan homes, complete with the classic brick wall for the kitchen. Up front, there is a feeling of grandeur with its impressive chandeliers made from porcelain plates; but also, ultimately, a feeling of coziness.
The name, B.E.L. Iloco, rooted from the three most iconic Ilocano dishes: the bagnet, the empanada, and the longganisa.
Their most signature dish, though, is the bagnet. A classic in Ilocano cuisine, they showcased its versatility by adding it in dishes such as the bagnet sinigang, the bagnet kare-kare, pakbet with bagnet, and more.
Each dish was crafted carefully. Al Purugganan ensured that each meal was made from scratch—a practice he himself learned from the women in his life who nourished him, his grandmother and his mother, to whom he dedicated B.E.L. Iloco to. So, every bite would taste like home.
Not only were all recipes perfected before it made it into the menu, each meal was priced reasonably with set meals that come with your choice of vegetables, rice, and soup at the cost 255 pesos at its lowest.
This was important to Al Purugganan, as his grandmother and mother taught him that good and healthy food can also be affordable. B.E.L. Iloco, he said, was not a place you go to once in a while; it was a place you go to every day.
Come home now to B.E.L. Iloco, found at Palenque on the Upper Ground B level at the New Gateway Mall 2, Araneta City.