The chef and co-owner of Sacramento’s Cielito Lindo hopes to have his restaurant back in business sometime in January, following a two-alarm fire that charred offices and a portion of the kitchen on April 25.
Ramiro Alarcon, who owns the restaurant with his wife Claudia Alarcon, told me that he has been catering events and teaching cooking classes while waiting for contractors to complete repairs to the building he is renting at 3672 J St. in east Sacramento. Alarcon spoke to me through a translator because he said his English was not yet as good as his Spanish.
“When the restaurant caught fire,” he said, “I already had some events and bookings to make it through the next few months. I rented a commercial kitchen to do all these events.”
Alarcon immigrated to the United States about 10 years ago from his native Mexico City. Just prior to founding Cielito Lindo, he was the executive chef at Tequila Museo Mayahuel on 12th and K streets.
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Alarcon’s restaurant was open for only seven months before the fire. The cause of the blaze is undetermined, according to the Sacramento Fire Department.
His goal as a chef is to serve up dishes that he grew up eating, he said, and those dishes do not include the type of tostadas, burritos and enchiladas that most Americans consider to be Mexican food.
For instance, the dinner menu at Cielito Lindo featured grilled lamb chops with baby potatoes and nopales and a ribeye steak topped with chorizo and served on a bed of mashed potatoes and asparagus. But don’t expect exactly the same fare, Alarcon said, because he’s been developing new dishes for his comeback.
At first, Alarcon said, customers would come into Cielito Lindo thinking they would find a menu similar to the one at the taqueria that had been in the space before his restaurant. Then they saw that there was no self-serve soda machine and that the tables were covered, he said, and they would run out because they thought it was too expensive.
“I wasted a lot of food because people wouldn’t give it a chance,” Alarcon said. “Meats, seafood, a lot of stuff, I had to toss out and buy more. Slowly, people started to try it...and after a couple months, I was seeing repeat customers. In the last few months, we were packed. Some people waited an hour to get a table.”
Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.