Putting a South American spin on the fast-casual format is Pachamama, which opens tomorrow on Adams Avenue at the junction of the Normal Heights and Kensington neighborhoods. Named for an Andean goddess also referred to as “mother earth”, the renovated 49-seat dining room and patio features design by MY Studio ID (Bird Rock Coffee, Waterbar) and custom artwork from Gloria Muriel.
It’s the first restaurant for owner Victoria Vannucci and in many ways a mission of atonement. A professional tennis player turned model, Vannucci made headlines and drew outrage when photos of her and her ex-husband posing with hunting trophies leaked online in 2016. Since then, she says that she has worked hard to make amends, switching over to a vegan lifestyle and moving to Poway where she raises her two children on a farm that will grow herbs and other ingredients for Pachamama, which pledges to donate a portion of its sales to animal welfare programs.
The menu is 100% organic and almost entirely vegan or vegetarian, although pasture-raised chicken, grass fed beef, and sustainable salmon are available. Vannucci developed the dishes by adapting and lightening recipes from her native Argentina as well as pulling from the cuisines of other South American countries like Peru, Chile, Columbia, and Uruguay. Executive chef Ernesto Moreno, a Cardiff local, brings considerable experience in vegan and fast-casual dining, having worked at Urban Plates and Cafe Gratitude in his nearly 20-year culinary career.
Initially open for dinner only but eventually operating from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and adding lunch and weekend brunch, Pachamama offers baked spinach and cheese empanadas with fresh salsa criolla, crunchy Andean cancha (toasted corn), mushroom tamales, and quinoa chaufa, a stir-fried dish with Peruvian and Chinese influences. Salads and bowls range from the Andes Salad with broccolini, butter lettuce, red pepper, spicy cashews, and cashew-tamari dressing to the Ocean Bowl with kelp noodles, a seaweed mix, roasted carrots, broccolini, and chili oil. Desserts include tres leches cake and a twist on classic alfajores, shortbread cookies sandwiching homemade dulce de leche, and the bar offers beer, wine, and cocktails made with fresh fruit juices.