As a 24-year-old from Orange County — where the most outlandish food around is a California burrito — my taste buds have yet to truly experience untraditional authentic, foreign food. That is, until my recent encounter with Peruvian cuisine at Paso Robles restaurant Mistura.
Located at 700 Clubhouse Dr., Mistura is owned and operated by Nicola Allegretta and his wife Jackeline Allegretta, who opened the restaurant in hopes of introducing Central Coast palates to a whole new world of bold and bright flavors.
Allegretta, who opened Mama's Meatballs in San Luis Obispo back in 2006, is originally from Italy and spent his childhood days completely immersed in food.
"Cooking was something I always had an interest in," he said. "I used to help make dinner throughout the day when my parents were at work. Eventually I started working in local restaurants and before you know it I was traveling around the world to different countries just to do what I loved."
Allegretta sold his Avila Beach and Oceano locations in 2009 and 2010 in hopes of branching out into a new direction — one that would draw upon his wife's Peruvian ethnicity and cultural background.
Mistura, which opened shortly after in 2014, did exactly that.
When most of us, including myself, think of Peru, views of ancient ruins and high mountain vistas across the Andes come to mind first. While that picture does make for a good day dream, if we've been at all primed on Peruvian cuisine, the conversation more often than not starts with the country's mind boggling variety of potatoes.
While potatoes are common in the United States, they are not nearly as common as they are in Peru. In fact, Peru is said to have more than 4,000 different types of potatoes due to a favorable variety of climates and soil that allow tubers to grow. But potatoes are fortunately not the only food Peru is known for.
Home to dishes and flavors not found anywhere else, Peru is one of the few places on Earth that offers indigenous ingredients, flavors and techniques from all over Europe, Africa and East Asia. More staples, like corn, quinoa, beans and seafood, make up eclectic dishes. Ceviche, cuy (guinea pig), anticuchos (a skewer of grilled meat) and rocoto relleno (a stuffed pepper) are just a few of the country's traditional culinary delights.
dishes served at Mistura embody a sense of authenticity. The cooking, an absolute juxtaposition, balanced between hot and cold, acidic and starchy, robust and delicate. I knew going into the restaurant to expect flavor, but there's no way could I have prepared my taste buds for what they were about to experience. The spices — some clean and crisp, others deep and heavy — were so unlike any I'd tasted before I honestly wasn't sure what to make of it. One thing I knew for sure though was that I couldn't wait to try more.
My favorite dish of the day was by far the De Mi Tierra salad which included organic quinoa, heirloom cherry tomatoes, edamame, green kale, cucumbers, mango, cranberries and goat cheese all tossed in a fruity vinaigrette. While this salad was filling to the core, it was simultaneously light and refreshing and breathed wholesomeness all the while.
"Here at Mistura we buy local organic products," Allegretta said. "I genuinely believe it is important to know what you are putting into your body. Over the years I have found that while doing so can often be costly in the short run, it is often less costly in the long run. Eating organic can really help consumers minimize that long term cost."
The restaurant, located next to the River Oaks Golf Course, offers an ambiance that can be enjoyed as a fine dining experience, casual quick bite to eat or private catered event. The dining room, decorated with festive textiles, and bar seating — both in and outside — provide views of the fairways and rolling cowboy country hills in the distance.
To top it all off, guests can choose to pair their meals with one of several local wine selections.
"I chose to open the restaurant in Paso Robles for several reasons, but one of the main ones was because of all of the local wineries," Allegretta said. "As a quickly growing wine region, I felt a sense of camaraderie that is difficult to find anywhere else. I believe by collaborating together, local restaurants and wineries can really promote the food and beverage industry here on the Central Coast."
Mistura is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. for lunch and 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. for dinner. For more information or to schedule reservations, call (805)238-3333.