Filipinos make up half of workforce at NJ restaurant chain

LITTLE FERRY, NJ – From a small town bakery 30-years ago, this Italian-American family has now opened their third facility in Little Ferry, NJ over the weekend, The Palermo Café and Bakery.

Behind this traditional Italian brand of custom cakes, Panini’s and wood-fire pizzas are Filipinos who make up about half of their employees – from general manager down to their delivery drivers.

Borough Mayor Mauro Raguseo says opening a new business is a gift to the community that keeps on giving.

“I’m so thankful to the Filipino community, that has a strong presence in my community already, especially in my church,” said Mayor Raguseo. “The Filipino community has done great things there and I’ve worshipped with them.”

Liddie Mercado, Palermo’s first Filipino hire in 2007, worked behind the counter before she was promoted to office manager. Today, she oversees the restaurant’s three locations.

“I’m very thankful for where we are right now with the business,” said Mercado. “I see that we’re going to grow very big soon. It’s exponentially growing. I’m glad I made a decision to move full time with Joanne.”

Economic experts say small business create two out of three new jobs in the US. Palermo’s new hires include a Filipino general manager along with her assistant and customer service representatives.

“I’m thankful because I have a new job and it’s growing,” said Neslie Calara, a general manager for Palermo’s, “and we just opened a store and this is mine. Kasi ako, talaga ang nag-umpisa ng store, so I’m very thankful about that.”

Local businesses also employ other small business for various services.

Another Filipina was hired to design the second level interior of Palermo’s upscale restaurant.

“I think the most important [thing] when you get work, or you take on work, yung may ownership,” said Chonie Mercado, the interior designer for the restaurant, “so hindi porke Italiano sila or they pay you, you make sure you deliver very good work.”

Italian-American owner Giovanna “Joanne” Bruno says after employing just one Filipino seven years ago, she now makes it a point to hire more.

“I have to say they are one of the most dedicated, hardworking, loyal type of people that I’ve ever encountered and I would hire many more,” said the owner.

“I think Filipinos are very much like Italians in certain regards,” said Paul Bruno, the son of Palermo’s owner, “where we’re very family oriented and we’re collaborative, and we try and do things to the best of our abilities. … We love them like they’re family.”

Even the staff’s uniform shirts are made by a Filipino contractor, Marisse Panlilio’s printing business.

While Filipinos here are thankful for the work opportunities given to them, the Italian-American owners are grateful for the hard work the Filipino put into their family business.

3 Comments on this post.

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  • filam
    1 December 2014 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    Kinda racist….how about other races..are the less hard working, less creative etc…

  • kikay Pang0
    2 December 2014 at 9:51 am - Reply

    Group of Filipinos working side by side together in one place ? … the owner should check his inventory more frequently and thoroughly. . .

  • anonymous
    10 July 2015 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    why is this article okay at all… i used to work there and they were much less patient with employees of other races… i should’ve known. I wasn’t even there a month and they fired me for some minor mistakes I wasn’t even told about. I was yelled at for things others weren’t.. super unprofessional. its ok though