By Sue Botos
Judging from the owner’s name, it would be easy to assume that the newest Rocky River eatery will have an Italian theme. But it’s Jim Vecchio’s love of Mexican cuisine that will give the city its first Tex-Mex/American fusion restaurant.
“I lived on the West Coast for a while, and a lot of the travel destinations there are south of the border. I fell in love with that lifestyle. It’s a fun style, and you can do so much with the flavors, Vecchio said. “I’m not a white tablecloth kind of guy,” he added. He opened his first Mad Tex Burgers and Mex in Independence last year, and his second location is set to open in Rocky River’s Beachcliff Market Square in May.
Although “Tex-Mex” is in the name, Vecchio said that there is something on the menu for everyone. “I like to say it’s not Mexican, but fusion. I want the notoriety of being the first Mexican restaurant in Rocky River, but not the label. I don’t want anyone to forget everything else we have to offer,” he noted.
Among those offerings are signature gourmet burgers made from free-range Wagu beef imported from New Zealand. Vecchio said that the Wagu are related to Japan’s Kobe cattle, but are grass-fed. “(The beef) is 100 percent natural. There are absolutely no antibiotics used,” he stated.
Mad Tex will feature about 10 burgers, including the Panini (a nod to the local chain), which is topped with fries, homemade coleslaw, ham, cheese and a fried egg. The Castro is a Cubano pulled pork sandwich nestled atop a burger, and the Surf and Turf (which Vecchio said was the favorite of Beachcliff marketing manager Bill Brink) features a Wagu burger with a 3-ounce fresh lump blue crab cake on top.
Vecchio advises diners to bring their appetites. He said the sandwiches and fixings weigh in at about 10 ounces and are served with a choice of pretzel, brioche or all-grain bun.
For Mex fans, there will be taquitos, chimichangas, enchiladas, Mexican pizza and California-style fish tacos. New York strip steak, half roasted chicken and pork chop dinners represent American fare.
But whatever the flavor, Vecchio said, food freshness is the top priority. “You won’t find any refried beans here. All of my recipes are made from scratch. Our coleslaw is made daily. Our pork is roasted low and slow for 24 hours. I don’t use lard or preservatives in my food,” said Vecchio, adding that he uses fresh, Ohio-produced dairy products.
“I want to be proactive in educating the customer base,” stated Vecchio, who said he wants everyone to know that steroids and antibiotics are not the best things to put in one’s body.
Vecchio is planning on bringing in weekly specials, such as Family Friendly Sundays, Taco Tuesdays, $3 Margarita Wednesdays and Red Sangria Thursdays. He promises that a fun and funky bar area will be a highlight of the restaurant.
A self-taught chef, Vecchio said that he was raised in a classic Italian family. “My brother and parents were in the food business. I learned from the school of hard knocks. We had a professional kitchen in our house, and my mom was cooking all the time,” he recalled. He said he grew up working the local festival circuit, including Little Italy, St. Rocco’s East 185th, Mall C, Riverfest and many more. He noted that the family was especially noted for its pierogi.
Vecchio said he is especially looking forward to becoming a part of the growing restaurant scene along Detroit Road and Linda Street. “It’s a nice new blend. We’ll complement the existing concepts in a nice, walkable area,” he said.