Father, son spice up local sandwich shop SanTan Sun News

Father, son spice up local sandwich shop

Father, son spice up local sandwich shop
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By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

Mario Ventura describes his new sandwich shop, Mezquite’s Café, as a fusion of Southwestern cuisine and culture.

His menu includes the standard sandwich fare: like tuna salad or ham on cheese. But Ventura’s dishes add a spicy twist.

Smoked turkey is served on jalapeño-cheesy bread, veggie wraps are smeared with roasted-pepper hummus, and salads come with chili powder.

He wanted to offer something unlike anything he had seen before, Ventura said.

The palette is considerably much simpler to make, the chef added, when compared to the years he spent working in the kitchens of fancy resorts.

Ventura’s father, Romario, introduced him to the culinary world at a young age and helped him get his first job in a kitchen. The younger Ventura was allured by the creativity and technique chefs demonstrate when pairing ingredients together – making them sing.

“It’s a whole different world,” he exclaimed.

Ventura enrolled at the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Art in Scottsdale and went on to work in kitchens at The Phoenician and Fairmont Scottsdale Princess shortly after graduation.

But his dream? To run his own kitchen, enabling him to cook up his own menu and colorful ingredients.

“That’s the American dream,” Ventura said, so he set out to find a way to make his dream come true as his own boss.

He and his father decided to take a chance when opening Mezquite’s Café last month, on the corner of Chandler Boulevard and Fresno Street.

Ventura explains it’s taken a lot of work and effort, but “it’s satisfying to build something from the ground up.”

Ventura said they’re creating a fresh and hip environment – a place offering the flavor of Mexican street food and cultural vibes like at an artisanal café.

Mezquite’s patrons can sip organic Mexican coffee while admiring the shop’s wall of portraits – depicting cultural icons like Frida Kahlo, Elvis Presley and Ray Charles.

The Venturas make almost all of their dishes from scratch – except the bread, which they buy from a local bakery.

Other menu items include: a zesty egg salad and bacon sandwich; strawberry salad with cotija cheese; and corn-on-the-cob with cilantro and lime.

The dessert items are a blend of American and Mexican favorites. From the classic banana split topped with peanuts and chocolate syrup, a shaved ice dessert smothered with Mexican candy and chamoy sauce along with many other sweet treats.

That part of the menu – like others – draws rave online reviews. “Loved our banana split, best I have ever tried and service was amazing,” one patron wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook wall.

Another praised “great food,” “creative cuisine” and the “cozy atmosphere” and then said, “Food was absolutely delicious! Great atmosphere, friendly staff and everyone was having a great time. Definitely will be back.”

Besides praising the food – others remarked how it was an atmosphere where “everyone was friendly.” Adding, “such a cute restaurant to hang!”

Ventura’s personal favorite is the Mexican shrimp cocktail listed as an appetizer. It includes crab, tomato broth, avocado, onion and jalapenos.

It’s one of the first recipes Ventura remembers his father teaching him to make as a kid and always remained his go-to dish.

“In 30 years, I haven’t gotten bored of it,” he explained.

Despite living in Phoenix, the Venturas were attracted to the Chandler location because of its close proximity to the downtown area.

The city seems like an up-and-coming place, Ventura said, so they’re excited to be part of the community.

“We were looking for a little homey place (where) everybody felt comfortable coming in,” Ventura added.

Mezquite’s Café is located at 444 East Chandler Blvd., and is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Information: 480-504-5136

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