Just when its owners, led by home accessories designer Rene Alcala, were beginning to build a regular clientele for Oma Restaurant and Bar in Quezon City, a road-improvement project that took nearly forever to finish came into the picture to ruin the momentum.
Alcala and his partners had no choice but to close shop and move elsewhere to keep the business viable. It was a choice between Makati and Ortigas areas, with the latter winning out in the end because of its “central” location.
And true enough, apart from QC and Ortigas area regulars, the new Oma at Ortigas Home Depot’s Food Street on Julia Vargas Avenue now attracts diners from as far afield as Makati and Manila.
“Believe it or not, some of our old clients from Quezon City drive all the way here to enjoy our food,” says Alcala. “The best publicity is still word of mouth. We’ve also been attracting new clientele from surrounding offices.”
Oma, which means grandmother in German, is known to regulars for its delicious mix of pizza and dinner staples named after the establishment’s owners, their parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents.
Bestsellers include Christian (sisig tilapia); Jorge (crispy pork belly in bagoong sauce); Mikaela (crispy chicken adobo in coconut milk); and Roberta (four-cheese pizza loaded with mozzarella, cheddar, cream cheese and kesong-puti).
Trinidad (pizza with malunggay pesto and tinapa bits); Luisa (baked chicken with potato chips); Bernardo (crispy pork adobo in white sauce); Oma and Opa platters are also doing well.
Homegrown alcoholic drinks such as Mango Mint, Lemon Drops, Blue Illusion, Mindoro Sling and Oma’s classic and frozen mojitos are able to hold their own against branded drinks and classic mixes.
“At P399 per person, our Pizza All-you-can has been well received,” says Alcala. “I guess a big part of our success is our ability to offer something for everybody.”
Don’t let Oma’s rather limited space deceive you. The restaurant has three separate areas open to regular diners, including families with children. As the night deepens, the party shifts to the second floor where a DJ mixes dance music on weekends.
These areas can also be rented out for private parties. The lounge area on the second floor, for instance, can accommodate from 50-60 people, while the main dining area can host more intimate affairs for up to 35 guests. Smokers can go al fresco, as the outdoor area in front of Oma can sit up to 40 people.
Peter & Paul
Those familiar with Alcala’s trademark mirrors framed and studded with shells and various materials would instantly see the connection between Oma and Peter & Paul, his other company in charge of making export-quality mirrors and home accessories. Designed by Jim Tan, the dining area’s interiors are adorned with framed mirrors in various sizes.
Kris Benipayo, one of the partners, is also Oma’s resident chef. She coined the name Oma in honor of her half-German cousin, who calls their dear Filipino grandmother using the German word for lola.
The other partners, who are all in their 30s, are Leo Tiopes, Marina Martinez and Tina Pizzaro. As managing partners, they all have roles to play in managing Oma.
“Despite the competition, we’re doing surprisingly well,” says Alcala.
“I guess most of the establishments here are doing well because we all have something different to offer the public. In turn, people flock to Food Street because they appreciate the range of choices available to them. And Oma is turning out to be one of their favorites.”