Three generations of a Filipino family have come together to create a hub for the Filipino community in Rockville.
Allaine Hontiveros, 22, runs Filo Café, at 4836 Boiling Brook Parkway with her parents, Jaimie and Allan, and grandparents. The restaurant, which features Filipino cuisine, opened Oct. 8 for its soft opening and plans for a grand opening are in the works, she said.
For Hontiveros’ grandparents, Romeo and Lydia Ermitano, running a restaurant wasn’t a new venture. The couple previously ran a restaurant in Virginia Beach before relocating to Montgomery County.
“Because [their business] was so far away, it was hard for at least my mom and I to help out and be fully hands on,” Hontiveros said. “So when they decided to move back to Maryland, I was like, ‘Please open one. We can be part of it like 100 percent.’”
Romeo Ermitano said that for him, the decision to open the restaurant was rooted in family.
“Filipinos are family-oriented and we are a close-knitted family,” he said.
Ermitano said he aims to make Filo Café a successful venture that can be passed on from generation to generation.
According to Ermitano, Filipino cuisine is derived from many different countries including Spain, China and other Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.
The Filo Café menu includes items such as Bangsilog, a fried milkfish served with egg and garlic rice; Mami, a noodle soup with chicken stock served with vegetables; and Cornsilog, a corned beef served with egg and garlic rice.
The Bangsilog and Cornsilog are offered on the all-day breakfast menu. According to Ermitano, it is normal in Filipino culture to have rice included in dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“I think the Filipino breakfast menu is very iconic,” Hontiveros said. “It was my mom who came up with the idea to have that and we didn’t really plan to make it the highlight, it kind of became the highlight before we even opened, people were anticipating the breakfast.”
In addition to wanting to be a part of the family business, Hontiveros learned about the importance of a space like Filo Café for the Filipino community while taking a class called Filipino American History at the University of Maryland College Park, from which she graduated spring 2022.
“Having a restaurant, it acts as a landmark and like gathering places for the Filipino community,” she said. “It allows people to come here and share culture and, specifically, through food and not just among Filipinos but with other people as well. That way we get to share and learn.”
Hontiveros said she’s hoping that Filo Café will help to build the same type of popularity and community revolving around Filipino cuisine that exists on the West Coast.
“The West Coast is already so built and [has] so many Filipino restaurants and chains and what have you,” she said.
She hopes to “bring Filo Café to be like a DMV thing or like a Maryland thing, even like an East Coast thing where, like, people traveled from the West Coast and they’re like, ‘Oh, we have to try Filo Café.’”