Scouting locations for our upcoming articles is never a simple task. We share endless texts between the two of us. We pursue (more like stalk-cough, cough) through friends’ Facebook posts to find a new “hot spot” or upcoming restaurants. We keep our eyes and ears close to the ground, or the bar, to hear about what’s trending in town. But Kocina Il Forno had been on our radar for a very long time and last Wednesday we were like two giddy school girls waiting to start their first day of class.
We zipped up our jackets and braved the incoming cold front scheduled to make landfall during the evening. Gusts of wind and patches of clouds covered the skies as we each made our way to one of the newest local eateries on Main Street. We didn’t care what was happening around us; we were on a mission and our tastebuds were tingling.
Little did we know, Mother Nature had made her own plans to try to divert us. From what we found out, after the fact, high winds broke a tree branch that fell on a power line causing an electrical shortage for about a 20 block radius. Kocina Il Forno was among those affected.
If Kocina Il Forno sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Its sister restaurant, Il Forno a Legna, is a favorite among the locals. Their authentic Italian cuisine, with a modern twist, and brick oven pizzas have made this a recent staple in McAllen. However, don’t let the similarity in names fool you. Kocina Il Forno is a Latin infused/inspired restaurant. While the restaurant also has a brick oven, Italian cuisine is the farthest thing from their menu. Their brick oven is used to create tantalizing and funky pizzas like the Choriqueso with avocado. A Latin food lover’s dream!
Gaby: As I crossed Main Street, I noticed that the lights were off. Was Kocina closed? But we had called to confirm if they would be open, right?
Trisha: While sipping on some bubbly and enjoying the last glimpses of light that came in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, I saw Gaby crossing the street. She looked thoroughly perplexed. Considering I had just sent her a text confirming my whereabouts and the fact that there was only a hint of lighting in the restaurant, her confused expression didn’t surprise me.
Gaby: I walked in and was happy to be out of the cold. I was looking forward to a great meal.
Trisha: “Hi! There’s no electricity but, on a happier note, there’s plenty of wine!”
Mother Nature had dealt us a nasty hand. She would have us go through another excruciating wait. As our hearts sank, we heard, “Well, at least try some ceviche before we close!” Canchas were immediately brought to our table as not one, but two styles of ceviche were being made. Canchas are large, cooked, Peruvian corn kernels known as maiz chulpe or maiz cancha chulpe. It’s traditionally served as an appetizer or a snack. They look like Corn Nuts but aren’t drowned in salt or fried.
Two Martini glasses approached our table as we now sat in the dark. Our cell phones illuminated the dishes as well as Kocina. It was a modern-day “candle-lit” dinner.
Gaby: “We need pictures!” I exclaimed.
Trisha: “Ummmm...we’re literally in the dark.”
Gaby: “We can make it work,” said the general manager. With that, three cell phones lit up each glass and tried to produce a photograph. Props to our server for going the extra mile and helping out with my crazy idea!
Trisha: I had to photograph the whole spectacle.
Once done with our not so uncommon shenanigans, we picked up our spoons and dug right into the Ceviche Peruano and the Leche de Tigre Ceviche. “Wow!” We both gasped and took another hefty spoonful.
Trisha: While both were nothing short of delectable, the Leche de Tigre was by far my favorite! It’s a ginger, lime-based ceviche made with creme, incredibly fresh-tasting fish, and Canchas. Yes, it may sound odd, but believe me, your tummy will totally love it.
Gaby: Made with fresh white fish, red onions, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, rocoto peppers (found in Peru and Bolivia) and topped off choclo, cancha and sweet potato this unique dish will sure put a smile on your face. Can you tell the Ceviche Peruano was my favorite? Even writing about it has me salivating.
Trisha: Both types of ceviche are served in Martini glasses. Can you guess why?
Gaby: So you can drink the tangy sauce once you are done!
We honestly cannot wait to see what this gem has in store once it’s fully up and running. Mark our words, we will be back! Yesterday, Kocina Il Forno had their official ribbon cutting ceremony with the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and guests couldn’t stop raving about it. You can stop by anytime at 905 N. Main Street Monday-Thursday 11:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m.-2:00 a.m.; and Sunday 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Gaby Jones and Trisha Watts work hand-in-hand with the service industry. Jones is in charge of craft and imported beer for L&F Distributors and Watts is the communications director for Visit McAllen. Each week they will have a new adventure and provide an opinion on various locations throughout the Rio Grande Valley.