Living on bread & a few delicacies
Razel Estrella (The Philippine Star) - February 14, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods,” says American chef and food writer James Beard.

This belief is shared by Pages Deli, an idyllic restaurant at The Streetscape at Shangri-La Plaza Mall in Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

Pages Deli owner and general manager Jojo Paje, who loves bread, dreamt of a place where she could have a hearty sandwich at any time of day. As soon as Shangri-La Plaza Mall offered the perfect spot to her in 2010, Paje turned it into her dining haven.

“When I saw the location, I saw the umbrellas outside and thought this was a great place for alfresco dining — for having a very good sandwich with freshly baked bread and huge, filling complement with some good coffee.  Nothing beats that,” she says.

Food for thought

Paje’s daughter Maita is a voracious reader and aspiring writer. When the restaurant was still being conceived, she suggested naming the sandwiches after literary classics and bestsellers.

The smoked salmon delight, for instance, is called “The Little Mermaid” and the vegetarian masterpiece filled with grilled zucchinis and bell peppers, “The Secret Garden.” Their signature triple-decker of smoked turkey, salami, and four cheeses is aptly called “The New York Times Bestseller,” as it has become the restaurant’s smash hit.

Adding extra charm to the entire dining experience is a scroll that comes with a quote from a book, which were also thoughtfully selected by Maita. Customers will receive one when they order a sandwich, and, as with a fortune cookie, they’re in for an inspiring surprise.

“We have a lot of creative ideas, not just in food,” says Paje. From the interiors to the plating, down to the shelf-stoppers, everything in the restaurant tickles the imagination.

Paje is also proud of the fact that the restaurant is built and run by Filipinos. All of their furniture and tableware are Philippine-made — the leather chairs are from Meycauayan, Bulacan, and the plates are made in Cavite. “I always brag about our furniture, which is designed by James Razo, who is very young and creative,” she says and adds, “Even our crew are all local. They’re from Pampanga.”

Pages Deli is built around the principle of giving diners the coziest time. Once they sit down, customers are bound to lose themselves in people-watching, reading, engaging in a passionate conversation, or getting work done.

Listening to the customers

Aside from sandwiches, they offer wine and a variety of cheeses to go with it. The cheese platters are specially put together to suit the Filipino palate. They also offer meat. “There’s got to be meat. We have a good selection of delis. Nothing complicated. But our mainstay is turkey, because it’s healthy and you can do a lot with it,” shares Paje.

To cap off the dining experience, naturally, is dessert. With a partner baker, Pages Deli developed desserts that, while traditional, have the novelty and delectability that their dishes are known for. Their apple crumble — which a must-try — has been reinvented and can now be enjoyed with cheese balls on top.

Because Pages Deli listens to its customers, the food never stops evolving. Eventually they developed meals and began including pasta, soup, and salad on the menu. And due to insistent demand, they started carrying local beer.

If what the customer desires can’t be found on the menu, the chefs, headed by Arthur Gabriel, are prepared to innovate. “So long as the ingredients are available, they will whip up anything the customer asks for,” adds Paje. She notes, however, that while they introduce new items every so often, people still come back for the same things that made Pages Deli a hit: the sandwiches.

Beyond listening to their customers, Pages Deli also keeps an eye on their mood. “Our manager is always looking around,” she continues. “When one customer doesn’t look pleased, she’s ready to take care of the situation.”

For its scrumptious food, dreamy ambience, and unmatched service, Pages Deli has gained loyal patrons. “We want this to be the kind of place you want to go to. That’s our policy anyway: As a customer, how would you like to be treated? And the answer is how we serve them,” concludes Paje.

0PT DELI LEFT MARGIN PAGES PAGES DELI PAJE SHANGRI-LA PLAZA MALL
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