A grocery store-cafe-cooking school hybrid, Richmond's El Atino & Co. is delightfully eventful. From the open kitchen area built specifically for interactive cooking classes to the shelves filled with Latin American products, there's plenty to learn, eat and discover.
Previously a video store, the sporadic open brick, timber features and asymmetrical yellow paint across several walls have really helped to open up the space. As Alfredo Pimienta's first hospitality venture, he wasn’t going to leave anything to chance. From cherry-picking a handful of central suburbs to demographic analyses, Pimienta was determined to make El Atino & Co.'s food store an accessible Melbourne destination.
Stocking staples used in Latin American cooking and cuisine, Pimienta fills the cafe's shelves with brands from his childhood. Most products are from Mexico and Peru, but the store includes a range of marinades, glazes, chipotles, chimichurri and arepas (South American corn flatbreads). According to Piamenta, Melburnians make a beeline for the hot sauces.
"Soft tortillas and salsas are also very popular among Australian customers, whereas people with a Mexican background like the moles (Mexican sauces) and Columbians love the chocolate biscuits we stock,” he says.
Many of the products on offer are used in the cafe's menu. The baby of chef Martin Zozaya, the menu is described as 'authentic, but not traditional'. Using genuine ingredients, flavours and techniques, El Atino & Co.'s menu is typically Melbourne — albeit with a contemporary Latin American spin.
After porridge? Bridge Road's newest recruit offers a creamy maize mill porridge with house-infused milk in a smoke cinnamon bowl ($15.50). Craving shakshouka? Get it in the form of El Atino & Co.'s delectably punchy Mexican drowned eggs with Ranchero salsa and rich house-made longaniza ($19.50). They also do a good cup of coffee with Supreme beans.
Fittingly, a good portion of the menu is meat-free. Vegans in particular will be more than satisfied with the vegan tacos, packed with a variety of nuts and served with house-made guajillo paste ($21.50). The gluten-intolerant can also enjoy the seafood causa limeña: a dish of silky mashed potatoes seasoned with a Peruvian chilli pepper, and layered with seafood salad.
As if there isn’t enough happening, Pimienta also hopes to run weekly cooking demonstrations before the end of this year. El Atino & Co. is pretty much a one-stop shop for everything Latin and South American.