Picante Taqueria, a Mexican restaurant located at 352 Boston Ave., next to Tamper Cafe and the Campus Mini Mart, is a new restaurant owned by Edgardo and Jessica Morales. The restaurant opened in July. Edgardo has over 26 years of experience in the restaurant business, starting as a dishwasher and moving his way up to prep chef, line chef, executive chef and finally restaurant owner. His first job was at a restaurant in Cambridge called Picante, so he now comes full circle in owning a restaurant of his own with the same name.
Edgardo also owns Taco Loco, a Mexican grill in Somerville located near the Sullivan Square MBTA station. Taco Loco has been mentioned in Boston Magazine on multiple occasions for its excellent tacos and received the magazine’s Best Tacos in Boston award in 2007. His second restaurant, Taqueria Tapatio, is located on Broadway in East Somerville. Edgardo opened his first restaurant with his brother who owns two Mexican restaurants of his own: Cactus Grill and Tijuana Mexican Food, in East Boston and Chelsea, respectively.
Picante is the first restaurant that Edgardo and Jessica, who are married, have opened together.
“We came to explore this community and the university, and we had the opportunity to have this property … We decided, why would we rent to another person when we could own our restaurant here? So we started to dream,” Jessica said.
She noted that there are many pizzerias and cafeterias in the area, saying that she believes this area of Medford, and specifically Boston Avenue, lacks authentic Mexican food.
“We had a vision for our restaurant. We love Mexico, and we love Mexican food and think that this community could love Mexican food, too,” Jessica said.
While the couple is from El Salvador, they have four decades of combined experience with Mexican cuisine. The Moraleses, who are residents of East Somerville, noted the culinary differences in their other restaurants. Edgardo spoke to the rich mixture of communities in East Somerville, near their other restaurants, which affects their menus and flavors.
“I think [Picante] is a little more authentic Mexican, [and] Taco Loco is a mixture of South American, Central American and Mexican cuisine. Our cook at Picante is from Mexico,” he said.
Edgardo emphasized the freshness and quality of the ingredients that Picante uses in its dishes, coupled with its desire to remain affordable for students.
“Everything [on the] menu is authentic, good and fresh. We use fresh vegetables every day and high quality meat. Our chicken for tacos is very good — the taste is fantastic — and our fish tacos are delicious … We use fresh tilapia,” he said.
Picante currently sources most of its ingredients from the Boston Public Market each morning but it is looking to partner with local farms for more of its produce.
Both Edgardo and Jessica are eager to interact with the Tufts community. They are consistently introducing new dishes to keep the menu exciting for all customers and do their best to keep prices affordable. They also want to launch weekly “Taco Tuesdays,” during which two tacos would cost $5. Picante opens at 9 a.m. and serves breakfast until 11 a.m.
The Moraleses also mentioned their willingness to cater, as well as their desire to apply for a permit that would allow them to keep Picante open until midnight in order to accommodate students’ late-night cravings.
“We did not want to be too commercial. We did not want our ingredients to be from the cans, [and] we wanted everything to be homemade,” Jessica said.
Edgardo admitted to some fear in opening a new business in an unfamiliar area.
“We are a little unsure coming here, to an area that we do not know, but the only thing that I am sure of is Tufts,” he said. “Tufts is a very good university, and [it has] many students.”
Picante’s decor and aura is unique and intentional in its design. On one of the walls of the restaurant is a mural depicting a vibrantly colorful flying eagle.
“[Boston-based artist] Laura DeDonato painted the eagle because it is a symbol of Mexico … We wanted a different eagle with different Mexico colors: strong red, purple and green. Its feathers transform into Mexican flowers,” Jessica said.
The restaurant’s rustic flair is the result of a specific vision for Edgardo and Jessica. All of its tables, including a high-top communal table that spans a large section of the restaurant, were built from repurposed wood planks. Scattered throughout Picante are framed pictures of Mexico taken by a family friend who was born there and has documented the country in his travels. One picture shows a boy sitting on a barrel and selling agua de jamaica sin alcohol on an urban street. The taqueria also has papel picador banners, which match the mural’s color scheme, crossing the restaurant’s ceiling.
Edgardo and Jessica recommended nearly everything on the menu, but highlighted the torta a la mexicana, fish tacos, quesadillas and nachos as specific dishes that customers must try.