PORTAGE PARK — A father and daughter have opened a Peruvian restaurant in Six Corners, fulfilling a longtime dream and filling a void left by a restaurant that closed during the pandemic.
Peru Criollo, 3938 N. Cicero Ave., offers authentic soulful cuisine from the Latin American country. The restaurant, which opened on April 1, took over space from the Shilas restaurant. It features Peruvian murals painted by co-owner Diana Hoxsas and her brother, a well-known New York graffiti artist named T-KID.
Hoxsas, who has decades of experience in the industry and previously worked at a food service management company, said quitting his job at the company was “like a roll of the dice”, but it was worth it the penalty. She enjoys working with her father, William Hoxsas, she said.
“Because of all of these restaurants going down in those two years, there was an opportunity to see some sort of foreseeable future in the industry,” Diana Hoxsas said. “It seems fruitful. It’s a lot of work, but I’m happy.
Diana Hoxsas said her father coined the restaurant’s name, Criollo (pronounced creo-yo), which means soul food.
“We want to stick with tradition,” Hoxsas said.
Peru Criollo offers meat and fish dishes like ceviche, green pasta and steak, Peruvian-style paella and beef stew with cilantro. Other items include a fried potato dumpling with ground beef, raisins, olives, and a hard-boiled egg; avocados stuffed with a creamy chicken filling; vegetable relish mussels and purple corn pudding.
At the helm of these dishes is chef Violetta Luz Caseres, who is 80 and moved from Peru to Chicago in 1980. She has nearly 40 years of cooking experience and worked at Peruvian restaurants El Rinconcito Sudamerica in Logan. Square and Taste of Peru. in Rogers Park.
Luz Caseres ran a Peruvian restaurant with her nephew for four years and met William Hoxsas in business circles. He told her about his vision for a Peruvian restaurant on the northwest side – and that he wanted her as his chef.
“At first I thought he was crazy,” said Luz Caseres in Spanish. “But then he found a space and he said, ‘Violetta, come see him and see what you think. “”
The team has spent the last few months rehabilitating the place and painting the murals, which are inspired by Peruvian culture, said Diana Hoxsas. She plans to add more art to the entire back wall.
Luz Caseres said she was excited to cook food from her home country for the community. Her favorite menu item might be lomo saltado, a sautéed flank steak or chicken with potatoes, onions and tomatoes in an Asian-style sauce served with rice, she said.
“Lomo saltado is our country’s signature plate…and I also love Peruvian ceviche,” she said.
Diana Hoxsas’ husband also helps out at the restaurant, with a tight-knit, fun and supportive team, she said.
Hoxsas hopes to invite local musicians to play on the weekends and organize community events such as football watch parties in the future.
“I’ve seen a lot of families come through, and they’re very open to eating new foods and their kids are open as well,” Hoxsas said. “A lot of kids are picky eaters, but I’ve seen the opposite and that’s very important to me. … It’s like you’re making some kind of difference.
Peru Criollo is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
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