Those who grew up with Argentinian and Peruvian cuisine will be hit with nostalgia, while those who haven’t will have the opportunity to experience authentic breakfast food from the two Latin countries without traveling too far from home at El Gaucho Deli Café in Estero.
With its grand opening at 22905 Lyden Drive off U.S. 41, the deli café offers a variety of traditional breakfast foods from both countries. Along with homemade, fresh food and drinks, El Gaucho also acts as a mini market for Argentinian and Peruvian products.
Originally from Peru and Argentina, co-owners Rocio Navarrete and Mariano Maldonado opened their first restaurant, El Gaucho Inca, in Fort Myers 10 years ago. Their story dates back a year prior, in 2011, when the recession caused the loss of their jobs.
The married couple took their fate into their own hands and became their own boss, opening the first of two El Gaucho Inca Restaurants, with the second opening during the height of COVID-19 in Estero, and now the introduction of one of the few local Latin breakfast spots.
“We could never find local Latin breakfast spots,” Navarrete said. “We wanted to introduce the Peruvian and Argentinian breakfast because we love our food.”
Chef Maldonado was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where his passion for homemade food first flourished. The menu at the deli café is a mirror of his passion and appreciation for his culture, as he trains the chefs at each location.
Choripán, a traditional Argentinian sandwich with beef and pork sausage and chimichurri sauce, is featured on the menu. Sandwich de miga, a multilayer sandwich with crustless bread, ham, cheese and mayonnaise, is another Argentinian classic offered at the deli café.
Argentina has a lot of Italian influence, Navarrete said. The menu honors that by offering a pizzetta, or a flatbread pizza. Crepes with Nutella, fresh fruit and dulce de leche is also an Argentinian dish offered at the deli café.
Navarrete, originally from Peru, helped choose the traditional breakfast food that represents the country.
Desayuno lurin, a breakfast dish very popular in Peru that consists of pork, fried sweet potato, red onions and a tamale, is offered on the menu. Pan con chicharron, a traditional Peruvian sandwich made of fried pork and sweet potato, is also expected to be popular.
Along with authentic food from both countries, Navarrete said she wants every person who walks through the doors of the deli café to have some options that are familiar to them.
Omelets, BLTs, burgers and quesadillas also are offered on the menu. “I want to attract American people here, and if they have no idea about Peruvian and Argentinian food, I wanted them to have options,” Navarrete said. “If they’re in doubt, I think these are some safe options for them. From there, they’ll see the other dishes and hopefully come back to try something new.”
The menu also offers an extensive variety of drinks from coffee to milkshakes. While many will be familiar like vanilla and chocolate milkshakes, flavors exclusively from Peru may be a way for some to try something different.
Lucuma, a fruit native to the Andean valley, is offered as a milkshake flavor, as well as chirimoya, a fruit native to the Andes and popular among the Incan civilization of Peru.
The deli café also offers a natural, extracted juice bar, offering flavors like orange, beets and carrots.
“Every two blocks in my city in Peru, you’ll find a little market,” Navarrete said. “You can find these types of juices there.”
The nostalgia Navarrete experienced while describing flavors she grew up with is the same feeling she wants her Latin guests to feel when eating at her deli café.
“I love to be here,” she said. “But when you grew up with other flavors or sensations, you want to remember that feeling. I want people to experience nostalgia and their childhood without having to travel.”
The experience of happiness through food isn’t exclusive to her Latin guests, but to all that enter the deli café.
“I told my husband the other day, you don’t realize how happy you will make people when they enter our place and enjoy different flavors,” Navarrete said. “The love of food is an emotion. When you eat a very good meal with flavor, you are happy and that kind of happiness you will give to your customers.”
El Gaucho Deli Café is open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.