Sally Schilling/Daily Journal
Longtime Pantry customer Gary Graziani chats with Rhonda Reyes and Ramir Morales as they set up their new restaurant.
Anxious customers of The Pantry are awaiting the family restaurant’s Monday reopening at a new location. Actually, most of them aren’t waiting.
As the Morales family is working hard to get their new place ready for business, they are met with a constant stream of old friends and curious passersby.
"Are you guys open?” asked one man who peeked in the front door of the Pantry’s new home on South Delaware Street in San Mateo.
"No, not yet,” said a smiling Ramir Morales, son of Rudy and Melba. That customer was not the first of the morning to come by, said Ramir Morales.
"I can’t wait to see our regular faces,” he said.
After running The Pantry on El Camino Real for more than 20 years, the family was forced to relocate when their landlord decided not to renew their lease.
When the restaurant closed in May, Ramir Morales told his saddened regulars that the family would try to find a new location. And they did. The new spot is a red-roofed building near State Route 92 that was once home to the Peninsula Grill. A customer saw a for-lease sign on the building and told the family about it. The Morales family signed a two- to five-year lease on the property.
"This gives us time to see where we can go from here,” said Ramir Morales.
The usual hours of 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. will remain, and the traditional breakfast and Filipino menu will be 99 percent the same. Otherwise the customers would say, "what happened to my food?” said Ramir Morales.
As she set up the front counter of the restaurant, Rhonda Reyes, Ramir Morales’ sister, said working together in a new building will take some getting used to.
"We’ve been doing this for 20 years [at the old place],” she said. "We have to figure out our new dance routine.”
Melba Morales, who is famous for joking with customers, scanned the room and pointed to the entryway. She suspects this is where her new perch will be, so she can watch people come in and out.
The family has some finishing touches left to do, but they have begun to make the place their own. They already set up their large collection of elephant figurines given to them by customers over the years.
The family wanted to bring their old restaurant sign to the new place, but they decided against it. They did not want to uproot the owl family that has been living in the sign.
Melba Morales chatted with a customer who had been coming to the old restaurant for 10 years, as Rudy Morales hustled around the entryway with various tools, making phone calls. Rudy Morales said, despite the showing of excited customers, he is still nervous about the opening.
"I don’t know what to expect,” he said.
Ramir Morales is happy that the new place is double in capacity and has more parking, allowing for more people to get in and eat on the busy weekends. Now, when families come in and see each other, they can push tables together, he said.
Despite the larger space, the family is not hiring on anyone new just yet.
"We’ve got the whole crew back,” said Ramir Morales.
As the family worked, more customers came by, hoping for a bite. Gary Graziani stopped by and chatted with Ramir and Rhonda. "We can’t wait till it’s open,” he said. "Mama’s been real good to my son, she brings things over to his parties.”
Teresa Patel from Belmont was driving around looking for a place to eat breakfast and decided to stop by.
"We were so sad when they left,” said Patel, who loves The Pantry’s rolls. "We’d rather give our money to them than Stacks or anywhere else.”
One customer told Rudy Morales that he owes him money, for making him buy breakfast at another place, said Rhonda Reyes. She is looking forward to French toast and hash browns, "and just hanging with my friends.”
The Pantry reopens Monday at 1855 S. Delaware St., San Mateo. Hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., every day.