First Look: Gourmet Gringos, an authentic Latin American food truck
By David Ort
Latin American cuisine on wheels (Images: David Ort)
Tacos were Mexican once, before they met beef bulgogi and fried chicken. But Terry Nicolaou and Krystian Catala are keeping it real with their new Gourmet Gringos food truck, which offers Toronto a taste of authentic Latin American food from Mexico, Central America and South America. This newest food truck had a soft launch at last week’s Street Food Fridays event at Scadding Court.
“We’re about bringing quality and authenticity to our product while using local ingredients,” Catala says.
This team is thoroughly steeped in industry experience. Catala comes from a family that has owned restaurants and nightclubs in Toronto all of his life. Meanwhile, Nicolaou grew up in the kitchens of his family’s Greek restaurants and recently sold his own Wild Wing franchises. The name of the truck is shared with the catering company that Catala and his wife Bree own together.
To design the menu and run the truck’s kitchen, the friends hired chef Arturo Gress away from La Esquina, the Catala family’s Woodbridge resto-lounge. Chef Gress was born in Mexico and trained in France as well as Spain, where he worked in a Michelin-starred kitchen. Since coming to Toronto he’s cooked at Le Sélect Bistro, Maléna and One.
Chef Gress fondly remembers being in Spain, helping design and execute daily menus based on the produce at Barcelona’s La Boqueria market. He hopes, as much as possible, to adhere to that same local and seasonal ethos with the Gourmet Gringos menu.
That menu offers an unusually broad selection by having customers choose a vessel — which could include tacos (two for $6) quesadillas ($7), tortas ($8), burritos ($8) or arepas ($5) — and then a meat to fill it. Slow-roasted cochinita pork, mole-braised short ribs and tinga chicken were featured at the first service, and the plan is to add skirt steak and another pork option in the future.
The other menu options include fish tacos (two for $9), salads (with arugula, organic greens, watermelon and a mojito vinaigrette at the first service, $7) and deep-fried cheese empanadas ($3) for dessert. A savoury empanada — from a decades-old Catala family recipe — is slated for its next service.
This truck went from a good idea to the road in the three months since Catala graduated from York University in May. Catala and Nicolaou bought the truck from an online ad and outfitted the all-stainless-steel kitchen themselves. That matches the DIY philosophy that has Gourmet Gringos make all of its fillings, empanadas, sauces and guacamole from scratch; the tortillas are the only outsourced ingredients (they’re from La Tortilleria).
The Gringos’ official debut will be this Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Royal Bank Plaza near Front and Bay, next to the Royal York Hotel. They are also participating in the CNE’s food truck rally this weekend from Aug. 24 to 26.
For the near future, the partners are working on a space for their truck that will allow them to serve the late-night, post-club crowd.
Gourmet Gringos, 416-988-1900, @GourmetGringos