It’s been a very good year for Rafael Checo, owner and head chef of .
It’s coming up on the eatery's first anniversary and despite startup expenses and a still somewhat sluggish economy, the establishment is holding its own, he said.
For that reason, Checo, a Dominican Republic native who got his start in the restaurant industry 22 years ago as a dishwasher in a New York City cafe, is extremely grateful.
As a celebration to those in the community who’ve supported the business, he plans to host an open house April 13, 5-7 p.m. He’s inviting everyone who would like to come to a free buffet, featuring samplings of the restaurant’s most popular items.
Drinks are not included.
Customer favorites such as pressed Cuban sandwiches; Latin-style grilled chicken and steak sandwiches with sautéed onions; and Mofongos, a dish made of mashed green plantains filled with a choice of fried pork or chicken, will be among the many selections.
“I love their food. It’s seasoned very nicely,” said Wesley Chapel resident Crystal Beach, who along with her husband, Vincent Beach, stopped in for a late lunch last week.
They also remarked about the friendliness of the owner and staff.
Checo’s wife, Venecia, assists him in the kitchen; his daughter Venus Santana, is responsible for taking and serving orders; and her husband, Christian Santana, is charged with handling the business end of the establishment.
The family, in fact, is almost inseparable. They not only run the business together, they all reside under the same roof in Wesley Chapel.
“The family and this business have been a blessing,” said Christian Santana.
He then translated the thoughts of his father-in-law, who was seated beside him and speaks little English: “We’re doing this as a gift to Temple Terrace for supporting us in our first year.”
Checo’s offers a 10 percent discount on lunches to University of South Florida students and personnel from the Temple Terrace police and fire departments. There is also a 5 percent savings to those who text their orders in advance to 813-344-5656.
The restaurant is open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. on Friday, and 8 a.m.-7 p.m. on Saturday.
For more information, call 813-644-7082.