Pastry chefs Phil and Ema Soria opened the doors to their café — Panfino Patisserie — which offers gourmet food and pastries six months ago believing that Manteca would respond favorably. And the community has.
It all started a few short years ago after Ema’s dad, a baker, asked Phil, who was working in accounting at the time, to help him temporarily at his bakery. Ema, then working in dentistry, noticed how her husband took a liking to her dad’s bakery and semi-jokingly suggested that the two of them attend culinary school.
It seemed a bit farfetched nonetheless the couple found themselves looking into culinary schools. Before long enrolled in Sacramento’s, Le Cordon Bleu where they received training from professional chefs. What started as a semi-joke between the couple turned into a full-blown passion for culinary for both Ema and Phil.
As fate would have it, a divine appointment took place one afternoon when the couple got a hankering for a slice of Mt. Mike’s Pizza after a busy day delivering a wedding cake elsewhere.
Stepping into the pizzeria in their chef uniforms immediately caught the attention of owner Jeff Liotard and with that a conversation began. Through a series of discussions, Jeff and his wife Tevani along with Phil and Ema all recognized the potential for a business opportunity. Soon the two couples entered into a business partnership.
Under the wise tutelage of the Liotards, Phil and Ema opened Panfino Patisserie on Jan. 7.
“I can’t even imagine getting into this venture without the Liotards” Ema sdaid. “They have helped us so much with issues I never would have thought to ask.”
Next to the Liotards, the biggest impact for the young couple’s new business venture has been the reception from the community.
“We started off with no advertising. It’s been all word of mouth as people here believe in the power of community and supporting local businesses” said Phil.
When asked of the pros and cons of running their new business, the couple readily admit that they consider everything a positive with one small exception — the commute.
Residing in Stockton the couple has had to adjust to a 3 a.m. commute in order to have the bakery up and running for customers by 5 a.m. Though the early morning car ride can be rough, both agree that every bit of it is worth it.
Before ever opening their doors Phil and Ema had a vision for their café. A vision that included making every customer feel special in an environment that allowed them to feel as if they were no longer in San Joaquin County but transported somewhere else. Somewhere where they could take a break from their daily grind and relax long enough to enjoy their freshly made food and beverages.
Being transported to another place is exactly what customers experience at Panfino’s as they are graciously greeted by uniformed staff while instantly enveloped by the smooth sounds pf Italian, French and American music. The smell of freshly baked bread used for sandwiches and hot from the oven pastries, cakes, tarts and croissants are intoxicating. And for a moment, the food, the staff, the setting and the sweet magical aroma allows customers to escape the norm.
Exceptional customer service and a warm inviting environment is of high priority for Phil and Ema with the other being freshness of ingredients.
“Everything is natural and that’s a very big deal for me,” Ema said.
Whether gluten free specialty items or daily cakes, pastries, breads or meats everything has to be fresh in order to properly represent the heart of Panfino Patisserie.
As husband and wife and now business partners Phil and Ema are often asked if working together is ever a problem. The couple finds the question shocking as they both sincerely enjoying sharing this business journey and all of life together. The both confess that they “couldn’t begin to imagine doing it without each other.”
Now six months after their grand opening many positive changes are already taking place beginning with a recent partnering with 1-800-Flowers in which Panfino will offer beautiful fresh Fruit Bouquets through their café. In addition, there is the possibility of an expansion of a full service side. This would mean that the present café would be strictly used for picking up bakery orders while the full service side would be used for a relaxing sit down dining experience.
Due to the high demand of Panfino goods, a second location is being negotiated and the possibility of becoming a local bread source for local businesses is in the works, as well as the present store hours being extended later this year.
Loving every aspect of running their new bakery-café, the passionate chefs admit that one of the most satisfying things is “when someone takes a bit of our food for the first time and either rolls their eyes or sighs with delight letting us know that they love our food.”
Another very satisfying aspect is the ability to give back to the community. Recently working with Manteca Dolphins, Panfino supplied a tasty breakfast of pastries and coffee for their early morning swim meets and were then able to give 20% of the profits right back to Manteca Dolphins.
Other community involvement includes working with Woodward School, local food pantries and the Manteca Boy and Girls Club, in which the Sorias proudly display a thank you card sent to them by the kids from the club after receiving their donation of food.