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The family’s tradition of making pizza started when Kristine’s grandparents. Arturo Fernandez was an American soldier deployed to the Philippines in World War II. He fell in love and married Lita Gonzales, a Spanish-Filipino mestiza. In the 1950s, they moved to New York and lived in the Italian side of Brooklyn. It was there where they learned to make pizza from their neighbors. Arturo would manually knead the pizza dough while Lita simmered the rich, thick tomato sauce that was flavored with spices. Their daughter Nina Fernandez Assad who is Kristine’s mom writes, “One of my fondest childhood memories is waking up on a Saturday morning to the smell of fresh pizza baking in the oven. It was a special treat for us: pizza for breakfast! The wonderful small of pizza coming from the kitchen would draw many of the neighborhood children to play in our yard. Mom’s hospitality allowed each child to sample her pizza pie. Needless to say, we were quite popular on Saturdays.”
The family moved back to the Philippines in 1956, and the first Di’ Mark’s Pizza Garden opened on April 1, 1957. The restaurant named after Marky, the youngest Fernandez son and the garden of the family’s Menlo Road, Pasay City home was where the first outlet was built. Although initially furnished with borrowed tables and chairs, the restaurant soon attracted an enthusiastic and loyal following.
“ A lot of people tell me, ‘We had happy memories in Di’ Mark’s “ smiles Kristine who is actively involved in running the restaurants. Di’ Mark’s was a pioneer in the pizza restaurant business and remains a favorite place for either family meals, or cozy, romantic dinners for two.
What is the secret of Di’ Mark’s longevity in the fickle food business?
“ We make everything form scratch,” Kristine shares. For instance, the Italian sausages that are a vital component of the Don Arturo pizza are homemade. And although the flavors of the original Di’ Mark’s pizza combinations like Menlo Special (mozzarella, native cheese and grated cheese), Don Arturo (Italian sausage meat, mushrooms and green peppers) or Pizza Pro (homemade anchovy, mushrooms, pepperoni) have not changed throughout the years, there are delicious additions to the menu. For instance, health-conscious pizza lovers can enjoy the vegetarian or roasted garlic and shrimp pizzas. The menu has likewise been expanded to include appetizers and soups, pasta, sandwiches and hearty main dishes like bistecca alla Paulina (slices of beef simmered in special sauce), chicken cutlet parmesan (P345), tenderloin tips (P410) and others. If the dinner can still manage dessert, there is Mama’s cheesecake (P120), chocolate icebox fudge (P120), and strawberry shortcake (P180). Still, the main attraction of the restaurant is the pizza.
However, one can have many favorites. Although Lucas Gimenez had his first taste of pizza when he was 10 months old and he continues to love pizza, eats it at least three times a week in fact, his current favorite is the bistecca. Like his mom Kristine when she was a child, he is currently enjoying the experience of being a part of the Di’ Mark’s tradition.