OSSINING, N.Y. – A week after opening, the walls of Universo Mexicano restaurant are still somewhat bare, but the menu of homemade Mexican food from well-known tacos to specialty sopes is full and hearty.
"Everyone loves home made," said Gloria Soriano, the owner of the restaurant. "We serve very traditional food from my town that has an original taste."
Born in Tuzantlan, Puebla, a tiny town in Mexico about five hours from Mexico City, Soriano learned to cook from her mother, Rosa Maria Soriano. Typical recipes from her town include huachmole, a soup made from the seeds of a local vegetable that looks like a string bean, pipian, a green mole sauce made from pumpkin seeds, and sopes, hand-made thick tortillas served with meat, cheddar cheese, lettuce, sour cream and salsa.
"In every culture, your mom is teaching you to cook," Soriano said. "When I got out on my own, I was always calling my mom to ask her 'How do I do this? How do I do that?'"
Universo Mexicano is the third Mexican restaurant that Soriano has opened. She and her ex-husband opened Plaza Garibaldi in Yonkers in the 1990s, which is still successfully running. Then after her divorce, she opened her own small restaurant in Yonkers with eight tables, La Cabanita, but it was difficult to keep it running while raising a six-year-old daughter and a teenage son.
"I knew I was going to (open a restaurant) again. I have the skills and I know my roots," Soriano said. "I liked Ossining because it seems to be like a quiet town, not so much crazy and loud."
It was a lot of work to open Universo Mexicano because its location at 26 South Highland Avenue used to be an office, not a restaurant, Soriano said. New plumbing, an extra bathroom and a kitchen all had to be installed before the restaurant could open.
After about a year of work, the restaurant finally opened on June 30. During its first week open, Universo Mexicano fed customers from diverse cultures from Mayor William Hanauer and other Americans, to Ecuadoreans, Peruvians, Guatemalans and Puerto Ricans.
Aside from its hometown specialties, Universo Mexicano also serves well-known Mexican food such as tacos, enchiladas, burritos and fajitas. To impress customers, Soriano plans to start serving guacamole made table-side and steaming fajita plates. She also plans to serve breakfast foods, such as tacos dorados, tortillas stuffed with egg and sausage, once school reopens in September.
"There are little things that we need to finish, but we're planning to have a grand opening," Soriano said.
If all goes well, Soriano would like to expand Universo Mexicano in the future into a space next door that is currently for rent, and she would like to liven up the restaurant's atmosphere with paintings, a mural and Mariachi bands.
Universo Mexicano is open seven days a week from 10:30 a.m. to midnight.
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