1817 San Marco Road, Marco
La Casita Mexican Restaurant & Pub, 1817 San Marco Road, Shops of Marco. Phone: 642-6700.
Began working at present restaurant?
When the family purchased the La Casita business in May 2000.
What made you become a chef?
Actually, my high school summer job. My father owned a wholesale food distributing business and he introduced me to one of his customers, who owned a restaurant in the Hamptons, for summer employment. I was seventeen — and I liked it. I started as a dishwasher then behind the line and went on from there.
What was your first restaurant job?
The Meadows Country Club in the Hamptons (Long Island, N.Y.) in 1996. I was 17 that summer.
How long have you been cooking professionally?
That year (1996), I was a fast learner. Incidentally, I cooked a lot at home, so I knew my way around a kitchen.
How would you describe your cooking style?
American pub/Mexican cantina. I like to try everything and adapt it to make it mine. I also love Italian because I was raised Italian.
What is your most popular dish?
That would be our baby back ribs with home-made sauce. We have kept the secret formula and the original recipe and they’ve been the house specialty from the time La Casita opened 22 years ago. The baby back ribs are popular item on both our dinner and lunch menus. La Casita Pub opens for lunch with a special menu, and dinner with an American bar and grill menu, while La Casita dining room serves our traditional Mexican dinner menu. Then, we also have happy hour 3 to 7 p.m. daily except Sunday when we’re closed.
Where do you like to go after work?
Da Vinci’s. They have a very creative chef, and I like what they did with their recent restaurant remodel.
What is your secret seasoning?
I wouldn’t call it a secret, but I do use a lot of paprika in our Mexican dishes. It’s sweeter and mellower than cayenne, which has harsh bite.
Do you cook at home? If so, what would we always find in your freezer?
I do cook because I’m on a low carb routine — very simple — red meat or sea bass for protein.
What is your specialty? Why?
My lasagna. It takes six hours to make the sauce, so I only make it for special occasions, and when I have the time, because I also make my own pasta.
What annoys you most in the kitchen?
The sound of breaking plates — it not only hurts my ears, but also our profits.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
The people I work with. Most of our staff that was here when I came is still here. We’re like family. It’s like you wake up in the morning and you look forward to coming to work!