Restaurant Preview: Café La Fondita

There is a tangible passion in every dish.

Val Morano of Morano Landscaping (he also owns Italian eatery Lago Ristorante & Wine Bar in Harrison) bought a lot in Washingtonville (or “the Flats”), an industrial part of Mamaroneck, two years ago, planning to use it for masonry product and other storage. The building there, a low-slung ramshackle 250-or-so sq. ft. space, was previously the Hole in the Wall luncheonette, and prior to that, an Italian grocery market. But he couldn’t bring himself to raze it. “It had too much character and was part of the neighborhood for so long,” he explains. 

“It got me thinking that it should remain a food business.”

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Enter his passion for Latin cuisine, which actually kick-started three years ago, when he was traveling throughout Latin America to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Argentina, and Panama.

“I was submerged in the food culture, and it was beautiful. My travels were the inspiration for the space. I decided to transform it into a restaurant that would highlight my culinary travels.”

Photo by John Bruno Turiano

Mini taco trio

Photo by Heather Sommer

Open since early February, Café La Fondita is a counter-service takeout taqueria and Latin café with breakfast and lunch service (there is a patio with 30 seats for warmer temps). The tortas, or overstuffed, pressed Mexican sandwiches on crusty white bread are a standout, as are the steak and cheese quesadillas, grilled shrimp tacos, and tortilla chips with refried beans and cotija cheese. Daily specials focus on dishes from countries other than Mexico. The creamy house-made flan prepared by manager Carmen Padilla is among the best you’ll have. Everything is less than $10.

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“Sure, the parking is tough and the café is the size of a food truck without the wheels,” says Morano. “But into every dish we put passion.”

Café La Fondita
406 Center Ave
Mamaroneck; 914.315.1467

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