“When we saw the amount of support and excitement around the La Cantina pop-ups this summer, we knew there was something special here,” Sitek said in a press release. “We are looking forward to being able to further showcase Johnny’s modern approach to Mexican cuisine.”
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Since La Cantina will be within walking distance of his other Downtown restaurants, as well as Arnold’s, Silver Glades and Mazunte, Sitek hopes it will help contribute to the area becoming more of a dining destination. “It’s not OTR by any means,” he told The Enquirer. “But there’s a lot here.”
Curiel, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, most recently served as executive chef at Nada, chef David Falk’s high-end Latin/Mexican spot on Walnut Street. He was mentored by celebrity chef Richard Sandoval before working in the kitchens of several Denver restaurants such as Guard and Grace, Los Chingones and Lola before he relocated to Cincinnati in 2020.
The restaurant, dubbed La Cantina, started as a pop-up at Crown Republic Gastropub in July with a menu of small plates, tacos and authentic Mexican entrees.
Crown Republic Group is also behind Losanti, Crown Republic Gastropub and Rosie’s Cocktails & Pies, which recently reopened after a car destroyed a large portion of the dining room last summer. Sitek said the new restaurant will likely open this winter.
Sitek said the menu will focus on high-end (but affordable) authentic Mexican food dishes, including tacos, a 36-hour black mole, New York strip fajitas with smoked onions and tortillas made exclusively with corn sourced from Ohio farms.
“I’ll have a hand in developing the menu, but I will mostly let Johnny roll with it,” Sitek said. “He was born in LA and grew up in Guadalajara. I’ve never seen stuff like his before.”
Sitek’s wife and business partner, Haley, will serve as the general manager of the new restaurant. [Crave more? Check out what Keith has been writing about lately🍽️]