Filipino couple’s Dartmouth restaurant thrives despite hurdles
Posted Oct 7, 2020 07:45:00 PM.
Chanoey’s Pasta has a simple concept: feed locals quality pasta that’s affordable, quick and portable.
It’s owned and operated by Carl Mangali and Catherine Paulino, a couple who’s been married for two years.
Located on Portland Street in downtown Dartmouth they opened for business on June 5 after being delayed for two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Chanoey’s Pasta isn’t like any other pasta restaurant. Its focus is on serving mouth-watering yet comforting pasta dishes to customers all within a few minutes.
“With me cooking all of the time, I know I won’t put out a dish I won’t eat myself,” says Mangali who focuses on the cooking side of the business. “I pour everything into each pasta that I make.”
Four years ago, both Mangali and Paulino came to Canada from the Philippines. They’re both from Manila, the archipelago’s capital city, but they have different professional backgrounds.
Mangali trained as a chef in the Philippines before moving to Canada.
For four years, he worked at various restaurants across the city. He was a dishwasher at Ela! Greek Taverna; worked at Ristorante a Mano in Halifax where he learned more about Italian cuisine; moved to Il Trullo in downtown Dartmouth’s King’s Wharf where he was promoted to head chef; and then briefly worked at Casino Nova Scotia.
On the other hand, Paulino — who studied management while in university in the Philippines — handles more of the restaurant’s managerial aspects.
While studying at Nova Scotia Community College she also worked at the Spring Garden Road Subway where she was eventually promoted to a manager. She then accepted a manager position at a store in the Halifax Stanfield International Airport and worked part-time at what was a Subway on Portland Street.
Now, they’ve turned that same location into Chanoey’s Pasta.
“When they told me that they were going to close the store, I told the area manager, ‘I’ll take it,’” she says. “Because we’ve been building our business plan for a long time and we just couldn’t find the right location.
“This is the perfect spot for us because it’s small and we live two minutes away from here. So, it’s less expensive for us.”
Mangali and Paulino’s passion for their restaurant reflects in even the minor details of Chanoey’s Pasta.
Each day, Mangali and Paulino create a special pasta in order to introduce different flavours to the city. Some of the specials they’ve created include a pasta dish with chicken and pork adobo, a Mexican-inspired dish with pork carnitas and even a donair pasta.
“It’s because of our travels,” Paulino says. “We travelled a lot before starting this business. So, every time that we taste something different, we wanted to bring it to the restaurant.”
On top of the daily special, the regular menu offers Italian classics including gnocchi, lasagna and carbonara. It also features non-pasta items such as sandwiches, soup and all-day breakfast.
“We wanted to adapt,” Paulino says. “That’s our goal; we can adapt anything, anytime here in Nova Scotia.”
That passion can also be seen in the duo’s work ethic. They originally planned to hire a third person and have the restaurant open seven days a week.
Instead, they wanted to keep the restaurant between the two of them even if it meant working long days. They decided both of them would work six days a week and take Sundays off.
This came from their desire of being able to control a smaller restaurant rather than trying to handle a busy fine dining experience.
But their passion runs deeper. Even the restaurant’s name reflects their personalities.
Chanoey’s Pasta is a portmanteau of two characters’ names from one of their favourite television sitcom, Friends.
“It’s Chandler and Joey,” Paulino says. “Because we are big fans of Friends, so we dedicated the store for them as well. And a lot of people are really happy with it.
“We get customers by just the name; they like it even before tasting the pasta.”
But owning and operating a business isn’t always peaceful, even if it just opened a few months ago.
On the morning of Sept. 24, Chanoey’s Pasta was broken into.
Just before Mangali and Paulino were to open the store at 8 a.m., they arrived at the restaurant finding a shattered front door and police officers searching the area.
“We were not really ‘shocked’ shocked,” Paulino says. “But we were very devasted because I knew it would happen as well.”
Paulino says the night before, she saw two men suspiciously eyeing the restaurant and urged her husband to take their valuables and cash before closing.
The night before, Paulino even wrote a note for potential robbers.
“If you’re trying to rob us, so sorry we don’t have gadgets and money or any valuable things here!” the note read. “Just get yourself a cold pasta in the fridge and you’re good to go! Oh get a pop too! It’s on us. Smile for the cameras!!!”
Still, the robber(s) broke into the store and stole the entire locked cash register which had less than $100 in cash.
“It’s like a hot spot right now for downtown businesses,” she says. “We can’t do anything about it. All we can do is control it and prevent them from getting stuff from us.”
They closed the next day in order to deal with the stress, take a breather and clean up the mess — something Paulino says was a hassle since Thursdays are one of their busiest days.
Now, they’ve installed an outdoor camera, ordered metal bars to put across the front door and windows and they’ve upgraded the security system where someone in the Philippines — which is 12 hours ahead of Halifax’s time zone — watches the camera while Mangali and Paulino sleep.
“But we were so happy as well because that time we realized that we were so loved by our customers,” Paulino says.
She says numerous people brought them coffee and baked goods while some even offered to help clean up the mess.
And the community support doesn’t stop there.
When they first opened Chanoey’s Pasta, each day they made around 20 or 30 containers of pasta. Now, because they’re also fulfilling delivery orders, Paulino says they make around 100 to 300 containers of pasta daily.
One of their busiest times of the day is lunchtime. Paulino says business is “like back to normal now” as the restaurant is often full during lunch rushes.
She says they’ve built up a lot of regular customers including people who come on their lunch breaks from Halifax, Burnside and Lower Sackville.
Even though it’s just the two of them, they’re happy running the business themselves.
Paulino says many people have asked if they’ll franchise the store, but she says that’s not their plan for the near future.
“For now, no,” she says. “We wanted to keep it local, we wanted to keep it small, we wanted to keep it just us.
“I won’t say never, but for now that’s our plan, just to keep it small.”
The desire to keep the business between them was one of the factors that drove them to open Chanoey’s Pasta.
“We’re not in it for the profit,” she says. “We’re just here because we wanted to work together.”
Prior to opening the restaurant, Paulino says they’d work opposite schedules. Oftentimes, Paulino would work from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. while Mangali would work from 4 p.m. to close.
Now, they’ve combined two things they love: running Chanoey’s Pasta and spending time with one another.
“It doesn’t feel like working,” Mangali says. “It just feels like we’re playing around in a big kitchen.”