Vanilla cupcake, cookie to go for Mario Batali

Top: An assortment of pastries. Below: The popular mango-strawberry cake

A familiar-looking man barreled into Pan de sal Patisserie and Resto Bar in Gramercy on a late and lazy October 30 morning.

She wasn’t quite sure, so pastry chef Liane Ramos coyly asked the stocky customer, “You look like Mario Batali?”

“I get that a lot” came the curt but friendly reply.

Then he asked for a vanilla cupcake and an oatmeal cookie, chatted up Pan de sal owner Marissa Beck, agreed to pose with Liane for a quick snapshot, paid and left.

Two chefs: Mario Batali with Liane Ramos

The Food Network star, James Beard’s Best Chef, cookbook author and an authority on all things Italy and culinary had just left the building. But not before finding out that Pan de sal — while a sweet haven for Filipino pastries — is also about Italian cannolis and French tarts and espressos and fine dining as well as takeout orders.

“We opened in August,” Pan de Sal staff Krizia Daya told The FilAm. “We serve Filipino breakfast, so we open at 7.”

Only three months old, Pan de Sal is acquiring a reputation as pleasant coffee shop where Filipino nurses at Bellevue, Beth Israel, Metropolitan and other nearby hospitals buy their snacks, hang out after work or order birthday cakes for their children.

Marissa Beck, the owner, is a retired psychiatric nurse from Beth Israel. She now runs the bake shop with her American husband Henry. The couple also own an employment agency for health care workers called Medical Dynamic Systems, whose Second Avenue office is not far from the bake shop.

As a matter of fact, disclosed Krizia, “I am a nurse too, just waiting for my NClex.”

Like Krizia, the pastry chefs and staff working at Pan de sal are mostly nurses. While awaiting their licensing, they learn new skills, like baking, frosting and running a pastry shop.

The store has rows of beautifully decorated cakes on display, but actually specializes in the Filipino bun called ‘pan de sal.’

Regulars come to the store for its ‘pan de sal breakfast’ which consists of two pieces of the round bread with their choice of fillings –adobo, sardines or corned beef – coffee and a bowl of fresh fruits. “Of course, many choose adobo,” said Krizia.

The chicken mami, a variation of the chicken noodle soup, is popular among customers who like to pair it with their favorite pasta dish.

Pan de sal is now on a promo for the ‘hopia,’ a pastry made of yellow or red bean and which originated in China.

“Now that school is out, some children come to the shop and ask us what hopia is,” said Krizia.

If in the future Mario Batali decides to do a feature on Philippine food, he knows Filipinos start their day with a toasty bun, and that’s probably where he should start too. — Cristina DC Pastor

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: