The Antonio’s group of restaurants, which includes Antonio’s, Breakfast at Antonio’s and Balay Dako—practically icons in the Tagaytay dining landscape—will finally have a presence outside of Luzon’s popular weekend destination.
This Thursday, it is opening Pedro The Grocer, the “primary brick-and-mortar distribution point” of all of the group’s “prepared, frozen, baked and ready-to-eat products.” The store is located at the San Antonio Plaza Arcade in Makati City.
The 48-sqm old-world-meets-tropical-Pinoy space will carry such Antonio’s fan favorites as the house-made thick-cut bacon to Balay Dako’s ready-to-eat bulalo to the croissants, ensaymada queso de bola and piaya. In short, all those little extras people love when they visit the restaurants. A souvenir of their dining experience they wish to take home.
Pedro The Grocer is named after the younger son of Antonio’s chef and founder Tonyboy Escalante—but it is elder son Basti Escalante who sits as owner of the brand and the one in charge of running the business. “We considered naming the store after me but it just didn’t ring true,” Basti says. “Then, I thought of my brother, Pedro. He is always the happiest when he is at the grocery. What better way to get him involved than naming the store after him?”
Opening Pedro the Grocer signifies a turning point in the Escalante family’s growing food enterprise—a passing of the torch to the next generation. And Basti, having taken on the latest addition to the group’s ventures, has quite the reputation to live up to.
The Antonio’s restaurants, after all, are known to exemplify excellence in food, service, and design. If the accolades are anything to go by, the fine dining establishment Antonio’s Tagaytay remains the gold standard of restaurants in the country. It is the first Filipino restaurant to break into the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and continues to figure in the awards body’s elite circle of 100.
“I want to build on what my father has done,” says Basti. “Taking the values that made Antonio’s and create something new, something exciting. I want my family to be proud of what Pedro the Grocer is and what it can be.”
Basti grew up in Tagaytay within the lush environs of the Antonio’s compound. “I grew up seeing how Antonio’s developed through the last 20 years,” the 23-year old tells ANCX. But despite being raised in laidback surroundings, Basti was drawn to the active lifestyle. “I grew up motor racing, from go karts to cars. Motorsports is my first love. I played rugby in high school where I learned to be a team player.”
What are his other interests? “Currently, I love watching sports like football and baseball with family and friends. I fell in love with dogs when I had a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Now, I have a Cane Corso who is my daily companion. Dogs make for great company and all without saying a word.”
While the family restaurant’s acclaimed dishes were always within reach growing up, Basti describes his personal preference for food as very simple. “It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Filipino food cooked at home with rice usually hits the spot—a realization I had living abroad and traveling with my dad.” He makes special mention of the family’s longtime helper Nanay Myrna who, for Basti, “makes the best torta and sinigang.”
Even when he’s currently enrolled at Ateneo de Manila where he is finishing his BS Management course, the guy is already knee-deep into putting his business learnings to practice. It all started when the pandemic sort of sparked a demand for Antonio’s products that people can enjoy outside of the restaurant setting. It was only natural that these must me made available in the capital. “I was presented this opportunity to build on what my father has built and I took it,” says Basti.
How will Pedro The Grocer distinguish itself from other food retail establishments? “Besides being the go-to place for Antonio’s products, I want Pedro The Grocer to be known for quality,” says Basti. “Over the years we have been building relationships with small batch, artisanal suppliers and local farmers. We want to offer the best, hard-to-find local produce and products to our customers.”