Chef Marta Quintana decided to take a detour from opening Havana Road, a Cuban restaurant, in the space occupied by Grano Pasta Bar on The Avenue in Hampden. She is focusing instead on her Cuban line of products, which are available now at Whole Foods in Mt. Washington and Annapolis.
But she’s not ruling out having a restaurant at some point after she gets her commercial business established, she says. Her game plan was to get into Whole Foods; then, establish public awareness of the brand and herself as a chef. Next on the list is to work on a restaurant.
The Cuban native, who came to the U.S. when she was four and now lives in Lutherville, was inspired by her mother and grandmother’s cooking. She worked in the hospitality industry for 25 years before being laid off a year ago. She then turned to what she knows best. "I knew how to cook and entertain," she says.
Her products, which she describes as fresh, wholesome, and having no preservatives, include red beans, Cuban salsa, rice ensalada, mojo, and mojo verde. She said mojo sauce in her native country is garlicky, oniony, and citrusy. "We put it on everything. It’s like ketchup." There are more products to come.
The label on her eco-friendly containers is a photo taken by her father in 1948. It’s a reminder of family and home. But it’s the cuisine that is the bridge. "To me, food closes the gap between the two countries."
Marta will be demonstrating her products and giving cooking demos at the two Whole Foods. Check the website for dates. This weekend, she’ll be at the Mt. Washington location between 11-3 p.m.
So what’s going to happen to the Grano space, now that owner/chef Gino Troia has moved around the corner? I have a call into Gino. I’ll let you know what he says soon.