West End welcomes colourful taqueria and mezcaleria Mama Taco
Although we were saddened to hear of Luigi’s Italian’s recent closure, we were thrilled to learn that the Luigi’s team weren’t gone for good. The skilled crew have merely shifted operations a few doors down on Hardgrave Road in West End for a brand-new concept. Here, the Luigi’s team have swapped pizza dough and mother culture in favour of Mexican fare and mother mole for Mama Taco – a contemporary take on traditional taquerias and mezcalerias.
For Raffaele Persichetti, Italian cuisine will always hold a space close to his heart. Over the past five years, Raf has steered the direction of Hardgrave Road culinary concepts Holloway Restaurant/Pizzartist and its evolutionary successor Luigi’s Italian – exploring his love of pizza, dough and constant experimentation. Although a huge part of his own heritage, Raf grew eager to get his hands on a new project, one that enabled him to indulge in his other culinary passion – Mexican cuisine. Raf has passed on the Luigi’s Italian space (which has since transformed into Restaurant Nina) in favour of new digs just a few doors down. Here, he and his crew have established Mama Taco, a cosy bar and eatery that pays homage to the taquerias and mezcalerias of Mexico. Raf and co. are seeking to shine a spotlight on Mexican cuisine, showcasing its incredible depth and history by employing traditional techniques (some dating back centuries), drawing influence from several diverse regions (Yucatan, Oaxaca, Baja California and Sinaloa) all while adding some contemporary touches. The Mama Taco space sits inside the historic Rialto Theatre, and is a pink-and-gold-coloured hole in the wall boasting a laid-back and welcoming atmosphere. The eatery boasts a scattering of street-side dining, timber booths, a long central table and counter seating, while the walls are adorned with recognisable Mexican landscapes, maps and paraphernalia.
As with any taqueria, the key to success is the quality of the tortilla. At Mama Taco, the kitchen employs a nixtamalization process to increase the bioavailability of corn, improving flavour and aroma for the resulting tortillas, which are lightly toasted to perfection. With the foundation in place, Raf and head chef Harry Antoniak have assembled a menu of dishes that include tacos, platos (larger plates), en el lado (sides) and postre (dessert). The taco selection currently includes four mainstays, each touched in some way by charcoal. For the herbivores, the El Hongo boasts porcini and shiitake mushroom with guacamole, cebolla morada (lime-pickled onions), salsa verde and pico de gallo, while the Berenjena de Comina features cumin eggplant, minted yoghurt, salsa roja, cebolla marada and pico de gallo. Carnivores can opt for the Tacos al Pastor y Carnitas, which boasts annatto pork, salsa roja, salsa verde, guacamole, chiccaron, pico de gallo and pineapple, or the Tacos de Suadero – slow-cooked beef cheek, cebolla morada, blueberry, pico de gallo and salsa. Featured taco sets will rotate through weekly, and will explore other regional takes on the humble taco, such as Baja-style and barbacoa. The larger dish selection includes the tostada ensalada (fried tortilla with fijoles, buffalo mozzarella, cabbage, zucchini, radish, mint, date syrup and Pedro Ximenez sherry), aguachile (yellowfin, habanero, merkén, avocado, coconut, lime, cebolla, coriander and raspberry), and the northern-style Mama Burrito, which comes with rice, frijoles, mole, salsa and your choice of queso, vegetables and meat. Sides such as tostadas, queso fresco, and Mama Taco’s signature mole madre (mother mole, which is made using 50 ingredients) help fill in any gaps before you arrive at dessert. Ending things on a sweet note is the helado y sorbet infused with mezcal, pecan toffee, golden sapodilla, dark chocolate and lime, and the pay de queso – a mascarpone and passionfruit mousse with Yucatan florentine.
Mama Taco’s libation list is part deep-dive exploration and part educational experience on all things agave. The Mama Taco bar team (spearheaded by head bar man Carlos Hurworth and restaurant manager Shaniah
Mama Taco is now open to the public! For operating hours and contact details, head to the Stumble Guide.
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