Citizen Staff Writer
MEET THE CHEF
Address and phone: 375 S. Stone Ave., 884-5253
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Born into a family steeped in restaurant ventures in Spain, Vicente Sanchez didn’t follow their lead until he had spent 10 years as an urban planner.
The chef-owner of Casa Vicente Restaurante Español first earned a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Wisconsin, then came to Tucson in 1995 to escape the Wisconsin winters. In 2005, he opened Casa Vicente in lieu of a Spanish cultural center. The restaurant celebrates Spanish cuisine, with traditional Spanish paella, tapas and sangria, and dance, with flamenco nights and special events.
He recently spoke to Taste Plus.
Question: What’s your favorite restaurant in Tucson?
Answer: I don’t have a favorite per se. I like ethnic food in the sense that I enjoy trying new flavors, new spices. Whether it’s Korean or Vietnamese or anything, I like to explore.
What’s your favorite dish to prepare and why?
I like the complexity of simplicity. One simple plate I like to make is chuledillas, a dish with lamb chops we serve as a tapa.
What’s your favorite dish to eat?
I eat more now, not only for nourishment, but for the experience. I like trying new spices.
What’s unique to the Tucson restaurant scene compared to other cities?
The uniqueness for us was that we were the only Spanish restaurant. The Tucson public is ready for a new experience and to be educated on Mediterranean food.
What’s your favorite or most used kitchen utensil or gadget?
As long as you have a sharp knife and a sharp mind, you can do anything and cook anywhere.
What do you always have in your refrigerator?
I always have garlic and saffron. They’re the sacred spices.
Why are you a chef?
My parents, my grandparents, my aunt, they all owned restaurants, and I always wanted to know what they were cooking and how they were cooking. Food is an enjoyment for me, but it’s also a tradition.
LOCAL RESTAURANT RECIPE
Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)
This recipe is courtesy of Vicente Sanchez, chef-owner of Casa
Vicente Restaurante Español. He says it is a year-round favorite in his
home country, Spain. The guindillas called for is a type of red chile.
Verdejo wines have a pearlike taste, and aged varieties also having hints of nuts and honey.
1 pound (16 to 20) peeled raw shrimp
1 fresh minced garlic
5 tablespoons Spanish Olive Oil (one with low acidity is best)
2 guindillas (chile de arbol)
1 glass of white wine (preferably verdejo)
salt and pepper, to taste
sprinkle of parsley
Warm a ceramic serving dish.
Sprinkle plenty of salt and a little pepper on all shrimp.
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil on high until it starts to smoke.
Add the minced garlic to the oil and roast it until the garlic is a light honey brown.
Immediately add all the shrimp, then the guindillas and stir or sauté vigorously.
Once the garlic is close to brown in color, add the wine. Keep the pan on the fire until it boils.
Remove the pan from the stove, sprinkle in the parsley, and add salt to taste.
Pour into the pre-heated ceramic dish. Serve immediately. Serves 3 to 4.