La Casita celebrates five years
Armed with authentic family recipes, Alberto Martinez opened La Casita Mexican Restaurant in Park City in 2000. His menu incorporated his grandmother’s mole enchilada sauce, his uncle’s jalapeo salsa and green sauce, the family tamale and seafood soup recipes and his own kitchen creations.
"Don’t expect restaurant food," Martinez said. "It is homemade food and I am proud of that."
Even all of the soups, including tortilla soups and a spicy shrimp and fish soup, are made-to-order to accentuate the restaurant’s home-cooked style. Martinez said he typically alters La Casita’s menu each year by adding two or three new dishes in place of two or three items he removes. This year, as a kickoff to the restaurant’s five-year anniversary and in order to entice returning customers, Martinez plans to significantly expand the menu by mid-December. He said the current menu will become a lunch list and 12 to 15 dishes and will be added to the dinner menu.
‘Carne a la Oaxaquea,’ a meat entre stuffed with cheese and vegetables, baked and topped with a mild sauce, will be one of the new signature menu items. Chicken, cheese and sweet tamales will also be offered in addition to La Casita’s pork tamales.
La Casita offers up an extensive list of 15 salsas and sauces. The salsa options include a creamy chipotle, a roasted jalapeo, ‘pico de gallo machu cado’: a mashed up version with jalapeos and the ‘La Casita salsa'(Martinez’s own sweet and spicy creation). Martinez said he often tones down the spiciness of the original recipes for the sake of the "gringos" taste buds.
La Casita’s specialty drinks include ‘Alberto’s Margarita,’ a traditional margarita with extra lime and a hint of spice, and the ‘Sambita Nana,’ a cocktail made with Bacardi rum, lime, sugar and ice.
Martinez proudly employs restaurant workers from various countries, which he believes contributes to the restaurant’s success. He said a combination of international visitors, seasonal workers and local travelers enjoy conversing with his diverse staff.
"It’s exciting to me to offer the customers something more than just food," he said. La Casita now employs staff from Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Peru. In the past, employees have come from Poland, England, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Argentina. Originally from Vera Cruz and Merida, Mexico, Martinez moved to Park City in 1997. His first job was in the kitchen of Steeps, a former restaurant at the base of Park City Mountain Resort. He also spent three years at Main Street Pizza and Noodle. When Martinez opened La Casita in 2000 he was equipped with work experiences from 11 restaurants in Mexico and the United States. In Mexico, Martinez’s first job in a restaurant began at age 8. By the time he moved to Park City, he had been employed in four restaurants in Mexico and had dreams of opening a Mexican-style family restaurant offering music and drinks. When he opened La Casita, Martinez decorated the interior with bright colors as part of his vision. Vibrant hats and signs hang on the walls and the wood chairs were shipped straight from Mexico. On Saturday and Sundays from 1 to 3 p.m. Martinez plans to offer live music, including his band, Immigrant. Martinez plays the bass in Immigrant, a Latin music group. He teams with a guitar and accordion player who are both originally from Columbia. Martinez said Immigrant plays tropical music, ballads and various Columbian styles. His band is still seeking a drummer and keyboard player. "After one or two margaritas, you will want to dance," Martinez said. To commemorate five years of business, La Casita will host a celebration party on Dec. 9 with up to six free menu items offered from 7 to 9 p.m. Martinez’s wife, Carolynne, La Casita’s bookkeeper, plans to bake a large cake for the party. La Casita Mexican Restaurant, located at 710 Main Street, is open from 11 a.m. until between 9:30 and midnight depending on business. Prices for entrees and appetizers range from $7.95 to $21.95. For more information call 645-9585.
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Thanks to COVID-19 cutting into visitation numbers, Park City’s seasonal workforce is sufficient. In any other winter, “the hiring situation would be dire.”