COMING SOON When Juan Grimaldo was a child growing up in Leon, Mexico, his mom always made fresh food—homemade enchiladas and corn tortillas with succulent meat and lots of cilantro. She even started selling the food on the street, which embarrassed a young Grimaldo…until he became an adult and realized how delicious and special her delicacies were.
Now Grimaldo and his wife, Danielle, are bringing the fresh taste of authentic Mexican food to 660 Washington Road. Totopo, a Spanish word used in Mexico to refer to tortilla chips, will be open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with a happy hour from 4 to 6 weekdays.
“The taste that is in my memory…” Juan says wistfully of his mother’s cooking. “The beans…the tortillas…” Danielle finished his sentence: “Cooked on an open fire.”
At the heart of the menu will be classic Mexican food: quesadillas, nachos, taquitos, artisan flavors of guacamole, five types of salads, tostados, tacos, burritos, enchiladas and carne asada, just to name a few.
While the tacos are Juan’s favorite and chicken fajitas are Danielle’s, they will also offer some hard-to-find dishes, such as a tamales made with banana leaves and filled with peppers and cheese. A traditional version with corn husks and chicken also is available.
The menu is complemented by a full bar, including many craft beers and Mexican varieties.
And of course, a main attraction is the margaritas, which come in traditional lime and tropical fruit varieties like mango, passion and strawberry. The signature margarita is a rocks version with tequila blanco, orange liqueur, housemade sours and lime juice—shaken tableside.
So that patrons can sample as many of the different items as possible, Totopo will offer make-your-own combination platters.
Danielle, a former Spanish teacher who is now a school counselor, is originally from the North Hills and studied abroad quite a bit. “I completely fell in love with the Mexican culture and food,” she says.
Juan came to America when he was 15 with the intention of studying but within a week was washing dishes in restaurants. He worked his way up in Chinese restaurants, but more recently was the manager of Emiliano’s Mexican Restaurant and bar on Pittsburgh’s South Side, in charge of three locations.
But they wanted to start a family business, and instead of trying to manage three locations, he wanted to focus on one. “Our goal is just one, solid restaurant,” Danielle says.
The couple picked Mt. Lebanon because they have family near the area and knew residents had been clamoring for Mexican food in the context of a business district already brimming with diverse international choices.
“I feel the cuisine will be welcome here,” Juan says, a sentiment that is validated by the 93,050 people reached by this magazine’s Facebook post.
“We also love the sense of community,” Danielle says.
While Juan will work six days a week in the restaurant, Danielle will handle the bookkeeping and marketing. The Grimaldos hope to be open in June.
LOOK UP, LEBO! That’s the slogan for a new public safety campaign meant to keep Mt. Lebanon drivers, pedestrians and cyclists safer. The effort, a priority for Police Chief Aaron Lauth and the Mt. Lebanon Commission, has three prongs: engineering (making the streets physically safe), education (reminding people of safe habits) and enforcement (making sure people follow the rules before someone gets hurt).
The campaign will have many tentacles to add to what already has appeared in this magazine and on the municipal and magazine websites. We’ll be writing detailed stories about the rules of the road for all three kinds of users of our streets. You’ll see posters in local businesses. We’ll put together videos. You’ll be reminded everywhere you go to Look UP, whether you’re driving, riding, walking or running. For info about the program so far, go to www.mtlebanon.org and look under “Trending Now” for the details.
SUNNYHILL EXPANSION When a church needs to grow, the congregation has to think of many things: financing, selecting the right look, making sure renovations are big enough but not too big and ensuring the project won’t adversely affect the neighborhood. But when the church is located inside a historic structure, you have the additional concern of making sure the building’s architectural significance isn’t destroyed.
The congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the South Hills and their architects at Rothschild Doyno Collaborative believe they have met all those standards as they consider plans to expand the building, located in the former Sunnyhill home.
The church, at 1240 Washington Road, is on a 2.91-acre parcel that’s zoned R-1, which is a low-density residential district. Although it fronts on Washington Road, quiet neighborhoods with homes border it on its other sides.
The congregation plans to remove the portion of the two-story structure at the northern end and replace it with a one-story addition that will have a bigger footprint, yet stay within the required setback of the zoning ordinance, says architect Ken Doyno. The front entrance will remain, as will 43 parking spaces, landscaping and lighting. The style will keep the current eave line and roof shape.
The addition will provide a new sanctuary with seating for 200, offices, storage and an area for a choir. It will be accessible to those with handicaps, Doyno says. In March, congregants put up balloons to mark the new roof lines and took photos to reassure residents that the visual impact on the neighborhood would be negligible. No residents spoke against the project at a public hearing later that month.
The congregation established itself in 1965 and bought the former home in January 1971 to convert it to a church. At the time, it was a two-story structure with a basement. They added a sanctuary in 1994. The church has a full-time minister and a part-time staff of four.
A groundbreaking ceremony will be at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 7 with demolition set to begin May 31.