Peruvian restaurant returns to Stamford’s Main Street
STAMFORD — The Rojas family’s latest restaurant opened just four days after the deal closed to acquire the business. The family did not want to delay the launch. They had already waited 18 years for the opportunity to come along.
Fiesta on Main’s opening on Feb. 3 at 249 Main St. represents a homecoming for the Peruvian restaurant. It operated its first three years at 70 Main St. before it was destroyed in a 1998 fire.
The Rojases would eventually open other Fiesta establishments, including a restaurant at 83 Atlantic St. Seeking to relocate that restaurant to a larger space, they learned a few weeks ago from a helpful city health inspector who makes his rounds at downtown dining establishments about the opportunity to buy the former Barrel House restaurant at 249 Main St.
“When it happened, it just felt so right,” co-owner and co-founder Elaine Rojas said in an interview last week at the new location. “We were looking at a lot of different spaces and trying to decide where to go. We knew we couldn’t stay on Atlantic.”
Fiesta on Main seats about 80 and occupies some 4,000 square feet, about double the footprint of the Atlantic Street restaurant. And it has gained a few dedicated parking spots, which are crucial for customers who pick up orders.
“A lot of people really liked our food, but there was only so much we could do to bring it to everybody,” said co-owner and bar manager Victor Mathieu. “We didn’t have a large enough kitchen or restaurant to do parties or a big group, so we were very limited. And parking was a big issue.”
With the move back to Main Street, Fiesta has also gained a 14-seat bar. Pisco, a Peruvian brandy made with grapes, is the centerpiece drink. Its versatility in cocktails promises to make it a favorite, Mathieu said. An el capitán, for instance, is a Manhattan with pisco.
“If there’s a cocktail that you’re used to or like, you can try it with pisco and it can be just as good or enhanced,” Mathieu said.
The food has already proven its popularity. The owners cite the appeal of the diversity of Peruvian cuisine, which has made Lima a global culinary destination. Peru’s capital is the hometown of co-founder and co-owner Alberto Rojas, who is married to Elaine Rojas.
Restaurant regulars give the menu high marks.
“This is marvelous; it was well worth the visit,” said Jaime Alegria, a longtime patron, while he enjoyed a meat soup during his first trip to Fiesta on Main last Friday. “I’m from Chile, where we have great food. But I’d say Peruvian food, like they serve here, is even better.”
The décor also reflects the restaurant’s heritage, with paintings and pottery from Peru.
The Rojases also run two other restaurants. They own Viva restaurant at 323 Shippan Ave. and Fiesta Limeña at 330 Connecticut Ave. in Norwalk.
A staff of about 20 works at Fiesta on Main.
More than 20 years after the original Fiesta opened, the business increasingly bears the influence of the second generation. Victor Mathieu is married to Ashley Mathieu, the oldest daughter of Elaine Rojas and Alberto Rojas. The Mathieus have a seven-month-old son, Cooper.
Shannon Portilla, the second-oldest of the Rojases’ four daughters, said she relishes the opportunity to put into practice what she learned spending time at the restaurant as a child.
“The new generation is coming in and being a part of it,” Portilla said. “It’s cool having both perspectives and seeing the change and evolution of it all.”
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