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New Restaurant Brings Filipino Delicacies to Gramercy

By Mary Johnson | August 8, 2011 11:58am
Baked goods line the windows at the newly opened Filipino bakery and restaurant Pan de Sal.
Baked goods line the windows at the newly opened Filipino bakery and restaurant Pan de Sal.
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DNAinfo/Mary Johnson

GRAMERCY — A new bakery and restaurant is bringing traditional Filipino delicacies to East 21st Street and Second Avenue in Gramercy.

Pan de Sal opened just a few weeks ago. It is the second restaurant venture for the owners, a husband-and-wife team who also owns Grill 21 just half a block from Pan de Sal.

Marissa Beck, a former nurse, is herself Filipino. Her husband, Henry, a real estate broker and born-and-bred Manhattanite, said she is the driving force behind both of the restaurants.  

“She really has the personality of a dynamo,” Henry said. “She could sell ice to Eskimos.”

For her part, Marissa sees the restaurant as a chance to better serve the large population of Filipinos in the Gramercy area, many of whom work in the neighborhood’s multiple hospitals and health centers, she said.

“There was a need for more Filipino representation in the neighborhood,” said Marissa, who was once a nurse at Beth Israel. “So we decided to open something that is more ethnic in terms of pastries.”

The name Pan de Sal is actually drawn from a traditional Filipino baked good. The bread is fluffy but dry and is served with butter and jam.

Some of the fancier options include sans rival, a complex Filipino delicacy that consists of buttercream and layers of meringue topped with toasted cashews.

In addition to the bakery, the restaurant also has a dining room for serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its walls are covered with a lush jungle scene, courtesy of muralist Russ Elliott, who counts the Copacabana among his many clients.

Elliott also painted the interior of the couple’s Grill 21 restaurant. On his website, he calls his work with the Becks “one of my most fun projects.”

The dinner menu at Pan de Sal has yet to be finalized, but the Becks have filled their windows, partially obscured by scaffolding, with wedding cakes and other treats. And Henry has been standing out front every day, beginning at 7:30 a.m., handing out flyers.

“My husband is a very good marketer. He will pull you out off the street,” Marissa said.

Henry said he deploys a variety of tactics to catch people’s attention. He improvises, telling passersby by that there’s a cupcake inside with their name on it, for example.  

“People find it amusing,” he said.  

Even though he owns the place, Henry said he prefers to be the one out on the street, pushing flyers into people’s hands. He did it for their other restaurant, which opened during campaign season, and managed to make an impression by telling each person walking by, “I’m not a politician.”

“No one has the same passion as you do for your own project,” Beck said.