Infused with Peruvian f lavour
Mountain herbs and black mint create unique take on rotisserie chicken
accountant to open Pio. And from Friday through Sunday, son Paul handles orders and service. The rest of the week he works as an engineer in Fort McMurray. Mariza’s husband Raul helps out, too, making sure the quality remains consistent, and Rahim Ibrahim, Sandra’s boyfriend and the person credited for the inspiration behind Pio, handles marketing.
The family foursome has converted a rectangular, strip-mall space into a pleasant, 40-seat restaurant. It has the look of a fast food joint — and you can grab lunch-to-go in a flash — but you can also sit down for a more complex Peruvian meal. Ceviche made from red snapper is on the menu along with anticuchos — grilled chunks of beef heart served with grilled potatoes. And there’s a quinoa salad filled with broccoli, avocado, cucumber, mint, onions and peppers to balance off the chicharrons — big pieces of fried pork rinds.
Open since early July, Pio is already a busy place. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. into the early evening.
This is a big year for Latininspired restaurants in Calgary. I know of at least three places in the works in addition to El Charrito, the taqueria I wrote about recently. And then there’s Oro Azul, a new Mexican restaurant at 3725 Memorial Dr. S.E. (403290-0901).
Jose Ricardo Rodrigues and Beatris Gil, a couple originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, cook up tacos and tamales and a list of Mexican specialties at their new restaurant. Included in the specials, which change daily, are molcajete Oro Azul, a dish of steak fajitas, grilled shrimp and vegetables and melted cheese, and the torta ahogada, a pork sandwich bathed in a salsa of chili arbol, tomato and lime. There’s even a dish they recommend for hangovers — a big shrimp cocktail packed with cucumber, tomato, avocado and spices.
But the tacos and tamales are the big sellers at Oro Azul. They do 10 kinds of tacos, including pork with pineapple and a grilled mushroom and asparagus combo. The fillings for the tamales are similar.
Oro Azul literally translates as Blue Gold and refers to the sea of blue agave used to distil tequila. (Rodrigues likens it to the black gold of Alberta’s oil.) And, true to form, Oro Azul has a fine selection of tequilas to go along with Mexican beers.
The Rodrigues-Gil couple has also run Las Tortillas at 4100 Marlborough Dr. N.E. (403-2733555) for the past four years. There, they make corn tortillas that they wholesale to various Latin markets and restaurants. They used to serve tacos and tamales there, too, but since opening Oro Azul, they’ve closed the food service side of Las Tortillas.
They have family working in both outlets; two daughters run Las Tortillas while two more are servers at Oro Azul. The couple also report that a new staff member is on the way. Beatris is set to deliver their twelfth child in October.
The Mora family, which includes, from left, Paul, Sandra, Mariza and Raul, owns and operates Pio Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken in Calgary.