A family with decades of collective experience in the food industry is prepping to open a new restaurant in La Jolla that will be dedicated to an old world style of cooking. Christina and Rosendo Lomeli and their son Andre are bringing Lena Craft Mexican to a second floor space above Richard Walker's Pancake House on Prospect Street.
Opening in early to mid-October, the restaurant will celebrate regional dishes from all over Mexico, from Christina's home state of Yucatan to the Mayan Riviera and Veracruz. Named for the Spanish word for firewood, Lena, whose kitchen has been enlarged and opened to be viewable from the dining room, will center around a wood-burning oven in which executive chef Rosendo will cook much of the menu, from masa-based flatbreads to meats, seafood and vegetables. They plan to launch with lunch and dinner, with brunch to follow.
Formerly in marketing for Whole Foods Market, Andre Lomeli said that the Lena concept is based on 'eco-gastronomy' with sustainability and traceability at the forefront; their masa-based dishes will be based on heirloom, non-GMO corn and local ingredients will be sourced from Cook Pigs Ranch, Catalina Offshore and area farms.
Seasonal produce will play into their housemade aguas frescas, which the bar plans to utilize in cocktails; other beverages will includes 20 wines from Baja and South America, plus 10 taps of local and Mexican craft beer.
The family is designing the 200-seat restaurant themselves, redoing the space with vintage stained wood, copper, white brick and Mexican tiles; a revamped outdoor patio will hold 12 shaded tables and planter boxes where the eatery will grow some herbs and vegetables.
Jose-Carlos Bravo, Vanguard Resource Group principal and director of leasing, told Eater, "Family run and operated restaurants are becoming sort of a rare breed; the Lomeli family are seasoned restaurateurs and I know they'll be very attentive to all the details of operation from the quality of the food to the level of guest service. This opening could not have come at a better time for La Jolla, which is going through a major renaissance in its food scene with more and more experienced restaurateurs with unique concepts opening shop there."