Pablo Zamudio, 21, a Bret Harte High School graduate, says he is serving food prepared according to once-secret family recipes at his new restaurant, Cascabel.
Cascabel is Spanish for “rattlesnake.” He chose the name so that he could use part of the sign for another restaurant named Sidewinders that formerly occupied the same storefront in downtown Angels Camp.
“You can taste the love,” said a Mrs. Nilsson of San Jose, who declined to give her first name. “It is really good authentic Mexican food. Excellent.”
Zamudio credits his family with helping him with his dream.
“If not for my family, this would never have happened.” His mother Maria Zamudio helps him in the kitchen and his brothers and sisters lend a hand whenever and wherever it is needed.
“My mother and I like to say while we are cooking that the secret ingredient is love,” said Zamudio. “We have a good time cooking together and we enjoy sharing our own family recipes with customers.”
Although it has only been open one month, Cascabel appears to already have a following.
Paul and Joan Poole of Angels Camp have already dined at Cascabel five times since the restaurant opened. “I like to get something new every time,” Paul Poole said.
“I enjoy the enchiladas,” said Joan Poole. However they both admit they are simply excited to “find excellent food” in Angels Camp.
Zamudio originally aspired to become an architect. While working for a caterer when he was in college he discovered he enjoyed this work more than his school. His employer, Chef Eric Olsen, quickly became his mentor. “He saw something in me, some promise. He mentored me and that is where it began.” Accepted to a culinary school in Napa, Zamudio opted to come back home and attend the Columbia College culinary program.
Zamudio admits that opening and operating a restaurant has been a learning experience. “It’s not just about serving great food,” he said of the need to understand the permitting process, operation from front to back of the restaurant, codes and more. “Wrapping my mind around all of it was overwhelming at first.”
The menu offers some traditional items as well as others less common on Mexican restaurant menus.
The Molcajete, for example, serves two with a combination of pork, beef, chicken and cactus in a rich sauce served in an authentic Mexican mortar. It is served with rice, frijoles charros and choice of corn or flour tortillas. For those who want lighter fare, the restaurant offers sandwiches, such as the sincronizada, a combination of ham, cheddar and jack cheeses, chipotle, avocado and tomato between two golden brown flour tortillas.
There are a variety of appetizers, entrees, soups and salads, sandwiches, a la carte items and desserts as well as Monday evening wine pairings with vintages from Metate Hill Vineyards.
Cascabel is at 1252 S. Main St. It is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Information: 890-7336.