The Antao brothers running the Jila Bakers & Confectioners at Ambora, a tiny village along the Margao-Ponda State highway, brought laurels to Goa when they bagged the prestigious Best Bakery Award presented by Times Now.
Jila Bakers was one of the three bakeries from all over India shortlisted for this prestigious award.
Named after their parents, Jila began in 1972 and immediately made a mark for itself with its niche products that attract connoisseurs of bakery products not only from India but even abroad.
Reginaldo Antao who learnt the trade at a young age of 16 years from his father the late Jose Inacio Antao – a well known baker with then Bombay’s Taj hotel, came up with his own recipe, the fan biscuit which has many imitations now including Parle’s Little Hearts. Incidentally, their father too had won an all India Bakery award in his times.
The most popular products of Jila are the special cookies named melting moments because they just melt in your mouth. Their Geneva Pastry with a cashew nut filling is another major attraction. In fact, Naseeruddin Shah while stationed in Loutolim for the shooting of The Coffin Maker would order six of them every evening for the whole month.
Their Chocolate Éclair is another hot favourite with some well known pastry outlets in Margao selling them off as their own product.
While the three brothers – Reginaldo, Antonio and Joao Britto – manage the bakery with three other staff members, the female members of the family also help in doing the odd jobs here and there including the sales.
Although there is a huge demand for them to start an outlet in Margao, the three brothers are reluctant to do so as they are not confident of meeting the demand and maintaining the high standards.
In fact, Jila Bakers & Confectioners features in the internationally recognized Lonely Planet besides being mentioned in all leading travel and food guides pertaining to Goa.
The oven is still wood fired and they require about five truckloads of firewood every year. “I would not mind going in for mechanization provided our children show an interest in this business,” said Reginaldo whose son and nephew are currently pursuing an Engineering degree.
To ensure that his products continue to tickle people’s palates, Reginaldo has written the recipes and kept them in safe place. Besides the popular items, ‘Mille Feuillas – a thousand layered cake’ and ‘apple struddle’ – a Hungarian dry pudding are some of the recipes noted down for future generations.
Among the regular visitors to Jila are cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar who visits it every time he comes to Goa. Nobel laureate for Literature Orphan Pamuk was one of its recent visitors who was impressed with the Geneva Pastry.