Daniel Vasquez is no stranger to the restaurant business.
Vasquez, owner of El Huarache Azteca in Silverdale and Poulsbo, has opened a third restaurant, Veneto’s Ristorante Italiano.
“I had a friend in Seattle who had been working in an Italian restaurant for about 17 years,” said Vasquez. “He said I should give it a try.”
Veneto’s has been open for about a month and Vasquez is optimistic about its future success.
“It’s like any new business,” he said. “You shape up your food and your business through time.”
After owning successful restaurants for 12 years, Vasquez knows what he’s talking about.
El Huarache first opened in 2001 after he and his brother, Carlos, operated a restaurant in Seattle, Fiesta Mexicana. When they closed that restaurant, they opened El Huarache.
“We didn’t have a nickel when we opened,” said Vasquez.
There is no shortage of Mexican restaurants in Kitsap County, but Vasquez is confident in El Huarache’s uniqueness.
On top of the usual meats carried by taquerias, ground beef and chicken, they also serve carne asada, a flank steak dish, barbecue pork and more.
“We also have our own homemade sauces that other restaurants will not have,” he added. Those sauces include green tomatillo sauce, habanero sauce and more.
When it comes to his favorite dish, however, there is only one choice for Vasquez.
“I don’t care what kind, but tacos (are) number one,” he said. However, he also said that when he eats Mexican food, it’s always either at his house or at El Huarache. “That’s it. Period,” he said.
In recent years, El Huarache has become increasingly popular, but the space they were in was small, and fit “less than 40 people.”
“In the afternoon, for lunch, it became so popular (that) there was no seating,” said Vasquez. “People didn’t want to wait, especially for lunch.”
In December, 2012, a building across the parking lot became available for sale and the Vasquez brothers purchased it to move El Huarache there.
“I feel very proud because I built this restaurant,” said Vasquez. “I was the carpenter. I was laying the tile. I did decoration. I did the cabinets. I did it.”
Vasquez, along with his friend, Mario Mendoza, who is a professional carpenter, worked every day on the new location for two months to get the building ready to open, according to him.
After moving El Huarache, they started working on getting Veneto’s opened. The principles of homemade food carried over to the Italian restaurant.
“We don’t have any special oven to make the bread,” said Vasquez. “But we use the stove.” The chef also makes all the sauces from scratch.
On top of owning the restaurants, Vasquez also manages both El Huarache and Veneto’s. It’s difficult, running back and forth, especially when the kitchens run out of things and he has to go on grocery runs, he said.
But he thinks that having the right people working with him, he knows he can succeed.
It is important to him that his staff and customers know how much they’re appreciated, he said.
“Thank you to Silverdale, Bremerton and all the people who are my friends,” said Vasquez.
“We are dedicated to everybody who loves Mexican food. They are the ones who made it possible (for) my dream to come true.”