Venue Review: Genaro's Rotisserie & Grill
The Charlotte Observer
10405 Park Road, Charlotte; also in Indian Trail at 14039 N.C. 74 E.
Yes, it's hot. But true restaurant warmth - as in a simple, sincere welcome and attentive service - is still in startlingly short supply in Charlotte.
Genaro's delivers that warmth with grace and consistency.
Its Peruvian food - especially the signature rotisserie chicken, but also perfectly fried yuca and sweet plantain, choclo (the huge-kerneled corn served with a cheese sauce tinged with aji amarillo, a yellow Peruvian pepper) and soupy beans - is soothing, yet flavorful.
The Pineville location (there's another, the first, in Indian Trail) bustles with a bright Latin soundtrack and bright red walls, decorated with images of whitened tree trunks (think rainforest). You'll notice a long counter and display case of desserts immediately, and the feel is "diner," but don't move to order there: You'll be seated, and servers come to the table.
Servers greeted customers immediately on our visits, even when it was busy, with a smile, and got them settled speedily. They also offer guidance, if you ask.
Newcomers or those less adventurous can hardly do better than the chicken, done in a wood-charcoal-fueled rotisserie oven imported from Peru and so smoky and succulent it's surprisingly easy to wolf down an entire bird. (At $14.95 for the combo with two sides, however, it's an economical meal for two.) But don't overlook the tomato-less ceviche or the enormous seafood platter, recommended to me by a young server who clearly relished both its flavor and generosity: Shrimp, fish, mussels, calamari, all on moist rice: a festival of juicy excess for $13.95.
Owner Duilio Macchiavello says the chicken is definitely most popular, and that he uses fresh-frozen chiles imported from Peru in the two accompanying sauces, one with the aji amarillo and the other with a green chile - which are not always easy to procure. "That's what I do all the time: I run around and get my items." Tilapia made with both sweet and hot peppers is another testament to his sourcing.
Macchiavello comes from Italian stock - his grandfather traveled to Peru and stayed; Duilio's father was born there, and so was Duilio. He knows the amalgam of influences that form Peruvian cuisine: "We have a lot from everywhere. We have French, Chinese, Italian." You'll see the Chinese influence in the saltados (something like stir-fries, except with French fries - no, really; it's traditional) and the French in assorted other touches; other cuisines also exert a pull. Lovely mixed spring greens make the salads bright, and don't miss rich beef heart skewers if they're offered.
I was disappointed only in an oily saltado and a steak that had good flavor but was definitely tough. It was lifted by a marvelous, thin Peruvian version of chimichurri that employs huacatay, also known as Peruvian black mint, along with the usual garlic, parsley, oregano and olive oil.
Even desserts, made in-house, show the blend of influence. Tres leches cake is a beautiful, simple version he developed with the owner's wife at now-defunct Olé Olé in Charlotte (he says he's also had stints from Cantina 1511 to Showmar's), while the napoleon-like mil hojas (meaning "thousand sheets") is made with puff pastry and whipped cream with dulce de leche (a sort of caramelized cream). There are flan and cookies, too.
Chicha morada, the classic and interesting soft drink made with purple corn, fruit and spices, is in attendance, along with Peruvian beer and Inca Kola (a sweet, golden drink sometimes dubbed "liquid bubblegum").
His clientele runs about half folks who are familiar with Peruvian food and half who are unfamiliar, after two years at this site, 4 1/2 in Indian Trail. There are still people who come in expecting pizza, the cost of naming the business after his father, but he finds some explanation goes a long way toward making people comfortable.
That chicken can finish the job.