In any enthusiast community, hanging out and sharing stories over good food and coffee is part of the culture. The term tambike is commonly used for weekly gatherings among like-minded individuals. And whether the place of choice is a gasoline station, the popular Escolta strip, or a favorite café, every riding buff is bound to join one sooner or later.
Of course, the surge in COVID-19 cases has put a damper on such activities lately. But there’s one particular spot that may soon be the go-to place when restrictions are lifted. Located at 3610 Bautista Street in Makati City, Vespa Café Manila is in the final stages of completion and will combine good food and drinks with a service area for Vespa scooters.
The interior features wall-to-ceiling artwork by artist Ralph Pangilinan, which depicts Italian locales like Venice and Pisa. It also also pays homage to Filipino culture with one area showing Escolta, and the stairs leading to the second floor showing the owners riding in a jeepney. Naturally, parts of old Vespas are used for the interior decor.
A private enterprise owned and operated by enthusiasts, the café is not affiliated with Piaggio (the company that owns Vespa) or the Philippine distributor, Motoitalia. So, all the input behind the concept and the execution is purely for love of the culture that Vespa has created over the years.
The CEO is Joseph Papa, a fairly new enthusiast who quickly fell in love with Vespas and currently owns three vintage units. The 1965 VBB in the lobby is his—fully restored and virtually priceless. His professional background is in advertising, but his inspiration for the café came about from his travels abroad. “Nung nagta-travel kami, nakakita ako ng mga Vespa café, pero talagang café lang. So, ’yun yung naging dream ko, na gumawa ng full-concept café.”
The menu selection is predominantly Italian, but some other regional dishes are offered in recognition of the fact that not all Filipinos may want pasta for a breakfast ride. A choice of silog meals, lomi and midday snacks like tacos are also offered.
Aside from the regular dining area—notably including a sizable open-air mezzanine ideal in this new normal—there is a private VIP lounge that clubs can reserve. In conceptualizing the café, Joseph also reached out to the many Vespa clubs throughout NCR and neighboring areas to submit their logos. These logos were then printed out and incorporated into the facade (for free) as VCM’s way of showing support to the community.
Joseph is also helped by two other founders, Charles Adano and Rayner Lorenzo, who provided input into the overall concept. The service area can work on any Vespa model, including full restoration and painting.
Once restrictions are lifted, Vespa Café Manila will formally open. While the owners admit it will be difficult to run a food business in these challenging times, they’re optimistic that the concept is solid enough to attract a regular stream of customers who may want to have an espresso, an oil change or just companionship. After all, that’s what makes tambikes so engaging.
We know where we’re going to have breakfast when we take our lovable “wasps” for a Sunday ride.