focaccia bread sandwich is an inch thick, filled with carne asada
(grilled beef), chicken or tuna.
Rico's is Mariela's dream. She has been collecting large bullfight
posters and colorful 1920s pictures under her bed, waiting for the
right time to open a cafe.
The floor tiles she purchased in Spain; the Italian marble-topped
counter is 100 years old. And the food is from recipes handed down
from her mother and grandmother.
Like many cafe owners, she watched and helped in the kitchen while
growing up in Chile.
So, if you're ready for an adventurous lunch, Rico Cafe is the
Recently, I had a beef empanada ($3.50) made by Mariela's mother,
Lina. This one has dough about the thickness of pie crust filled with
extra-lean ground beef, hard boiled eggs, black olives with bits of
onion and raisins folded into a delicious, oblong packet and baked a
Empanadas are hand-held staples in Chile and South America, often
sold from street vendors.
I added a small green salad ($2.75) that was truly organic, with
bad baby spinach, red leaf, frise, tomatoes and covered with carrot
and onion slices. Excellent and recommended.
Mariela, a vegetarian, selects her greens carefully while she
depends on husband Evan's choices of meats. Her mother, Lina, makes
most breads, while the croissants are from Vie de France.
My friend chose a focaccia Latina sandwich ($5.75), and it was
huge. It was a thick, round loaf filled with grilled beef, tomatoes,
red onions and fresh chimichurri.
This homemade salsa is a spicy and chunky melange of olive oil and
vinegar and finely chopped parsley, oregano, onion, garlic, cayenne
and pepper. In Argentina, it is a must for ground meat and adds a
spicy bite to the sandwich.
A Chilean sandwich, El Completo ($5), is the ultimate hot dog -- a
100%, extra-lean Kosher dog served with sauerkraut, tomato, avocado,
onion and cilantro on an open bun topped with layers of mustard and
Bring an appetite for this one, or take half home for a late-night
snack. A true "over-dressed" dog.
Desserts, like everything else here, are generous.
The bread pudding ($3), made by mom, is a big square of sweetened
bread with syrupy sauce. It could use some raisins or nuts to add
lightness to the solid loaf.
The tiramisu ($3.75) is espresso-soaked sponge cake layered with
thick Chantilly creme and covered with chocolate sauce scrolled
around the plate. It is truly "rico," which, Mariela says, means
"rich and tasty" in Spanish.
It had squares of icing depicting American flags and chocolate
slivers decorating the top -- really an extravaganza.
"We want to share the taste of Chile with Huntington Beach,"
Mariela says of Rico Cafe, her first -- and only -- restaurant.
* MARY FURR is the Independent restaurant critic. If you have
comments or suggestions, call (562) 493-5062 or e-mail