AUGUST 28, 2008
(STAR) By Kathy Moran - Behind every successful businessman is a company that works. So it has always been and so it is. “Tsamba,” laughs Danny Moran, owner of Amici. The restaurateur and former owner of Red Ribbon Bakeshop, which was sold by Moran and his partners to Jollibee a few years ago, bought Amici (pronounced a-mi-chi, the Italian word for friends) from the Don Bosco group two years ago.

“I think that for any business to succeed there are some basic fundamentals,” he says, turning serious. “There has to be a passion to put something together and to make it happen.”

Just like in cooking, the ingredients have to be carefully selected before a perfect dish can be made. And Moran is taking no chances when it comes to his new amore, Amici.

Moran overflows with passion for his restaurant. In him, one sees a man with a desire to make this happen — and in the best way possible.

“I know a lot of people who can come up with a good product, but they don’t have the team to execute the plan and see it through,” adds Moran. “A major factor in any organization is the people behind it.”

The bakeshop succeeded because of the people who ran it. With Amici, Moran has tapped the best people he knows to make sure that they, too, will see the business as their own and have the desire to make it grow.

It is this vision that Moran communicates to his people and has made Amici succeed so far. Proof positive of Amici’s success is that, to date, there are now two branches, one in Don Bosco, Makati, and a second one on Tomas Morato in Quezon City. The third branch will open at SM Megamall in October, the fourth in Greenhills by first quarter of next year, and two others are in the pipeline.

“How I see the business grow and how I communicate this vision to the employees are very important,” says Moran. “It is essential for all the people in the company to be eager and motivated to achieve the vision. This way, they feel part of the company.”

Moran is quick to point out that Amici is an Italian restaurant in a class of its own. It is a place that Moran likes to call “fast casual” — an Italian dining experience where the food is good and authentic Italian, but the prices are reasonable and the service is fast. That’s what makes Amici different from any other Italian restaurant today.

In the past, Moran says, that the Italian restaurants were patterned after American-Italian restos, but not Amici, which prides itself on using only the best ingredients sourced from Italy, along with the freshest local ingredients.

To continually offer Pinoys a good food experience, Moran brought in two chefs, chef Rodelio Aglibot, a Fil-Am, and chef Frank Fronda, an Italian. It is their international experience that Moran hopes will help improve the Italian offerings at Amici.

It was chef Rodelio whom Moran first approached when he wanted to improve and add new products to Amici’s menu.

“I went to culinary school late in life,” shares Rodelio. “I was 27 years old and had already earned a degree in engineering.” But, just like Moran, chef Rodelio wanted to follow his heart — he became a chef.

Chef Frank Fronda knew that he wanted to be a chef even when he was a child. He started working in the kitchens when he was 14 years old.

“I have never seen so many restaurants in my life, with people eating all the time and I love it,” says Frank about his first visit to Manila. “The first thing I learned is that Filipinos know good food.”

“We have created fresh new paninis that are going to be introduced soon,” says Rodelio. “ I know this is going to be very exciting for Amici customers.”

The two chefs have also added a new vegetarian pizza and a few new chicken pizzas. And there is the new meatball selection on the menu, which Frank thinks kids will love.

Moran believes that there is always room for improvement when it comes to Amici, which is why he is continuously looking for ways to give Italian food-loving Pinoys a good meal for their money.

“Amici has made a name for itself with its pizza, pasta and gelato,” adds Moran. “But we feel that there are other items that can complete our menu like appetizers, salads, maybe also a few more risotto dishes.”

How is the restaurant doing so far? “We are very happy with Amici,” says Moran. “As a matter of fact, both restaurants have exceeded our expectations and we feel we must offer our customers more choices.”

Moran knows whereof he speaks, and he also knows that Filipinos are always looking for something new when it comes to food.

Something New, All The Time

Because the Makati branch was originally a canteen run by Don Bosco, we have kept this loyal market,” says Iboy Pinga, GM of Amici Restaurant. “But every day there are new customers that come into our Morato branch.” Pinga adds that the crowd in Makati on weekdays is a lunchtime crowd and the one in Morato a nighttime crowd. The weekends are largely barkada and families in both restos.

Both Moran and Pinga are excited about the branch at SM Megamall. “In the beginning we weren’t sure whether we could put up a resto like this in a mall,” said Pinga. “The idea of putting a wood-burning oven was impossible. But when we gave our specifications to SM Megamall they said that they would have a place for us.”

“Exciting” is how Moran describes this time in his life — with Amici. “We are confident because we offer products that are cheaper and better. The idea is high-quality food at reasonable prices. I think that in terms of value for money, Amici is the best in its class.”

Does he intend to grow Amici like he did the bakeshop? “I think that if a company isn’t going to grow, then it doesn’t really have a vision of where it wants to go,” quips Moran. “As far as we are concerned, we must have a vision of being the very best-quality Italian restaurant in the country. So, certainly we want to bring our products to as many Filipinos as we can.”

Moran wants to give Amici his best shot, just like he did with the bakeshop. He is armed with everything he needs to succeed — passion, vision and the best working team around. He is focusing all his efforts in making Amici number one in the country — but is taking things one step at a time and learning more as he moves along.

“Certainly the objective is to grow the business,” says Moran. “And in all this, we have the ability to go beyond what is here today and to see a bigger brighter future for tomorrow.”

Buon apetito to that.  

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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