Arlen Gargagliano, owner of Mambo 64, says she intended everything from the design to the cocktails to the menu to make the restaurant feel like an extension of her home.
For Gargagliano, this makes perfect sense. As a constant entertainer, and the author of several cookbooks on Latin cuisine, owning a restaurant was a natural progression.
Even the space has continuity. It was formerly Bistro Latino, owned by her friend and mentor, chef Rafael Palomino. (He moved that restaurant to a larger space in Larchmont; the recently opened Palomino.)
Mambo 64 features Gargagliano’s own interpretations of Latin American and Caribbean flavors. She has lived in Spain and Peru and has been a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo’s morning show, “Buenos Días Nueva York.”Most of the recipes come from Gargagliano’s two cocktail and tapas books: “Mambo Mixers” and “Calypso Coolers.” (She also penned four of Palomino’s books and writes the Latin Twist column on the Small Bites blog on lohud.com.)
There are 11 tapas, with cheese puffs, gambas al ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce), Peruvian-style chicken skewers, and “Arlen’s Guacamole” already clear favorites. Pernil, a classic marinated and slow-roasted pork dish served on a bed of Costa Rican style rice and beans, is a popular entrée as is the chimichurri-marinated hanger steak. Perfectly roasted and pineapple salsa-topped branzino, flavorful without being “picante” jerk chicken, and quinoa and roasted portobellos are other sell-out stars. There is always a rotating list of daily specials, which are created with the help of Gargagliano’s chef de cuisine, Stephanie Landis, formerly of Don Coqui in New Rochelle.
Drinks are pretty special, too, with cocktails like Ginger-Champagne (fresh ginger and lemon juice-infused syrup combined with light sparkling wine), Dominican Hurricane (rum, passion fruit, pineapple juice, fresh orange juice, fresh lime and a dash of bitters), and Peru’s national cocktail, the Pisco Sour (brandy, meringue, fresh lime, and sugar). Special events — like cooking classes and more — are planned for the near future; details are on the restaurant’s website.
Gargagliano, who lives in New Rochelle, says she’d been thinking about opening a restaurant for years, but the timing just wasn’t right. She was busy raising her two kids, so a 24-7 job just wasn’t realistic. But with her youngest now 20, and the Tuckahoe space open, it seemed like all the pieces fit together.
And indeed, they do. The interior design, done by her brother Peter Gargagliano, includes chalk drawings, with three-dimensional paintings and sculptures by her other brother Shawn Gargagliano.
A wall of about 30 old record covers faces the dining room, and the rest of the art focuses on the mambo theme. The restaurant even shows a Mambo-themed DVD (featuring people like Desi Arnaz, and Celia Cruz) and plays as music with a Latin beat. You couldn’t ask for a better soundtrack for Pisco Sours and pernil.
If you go …
Mambo 64, 64 Main St., Tuckahoe. 914-222-9964, mambo64.com. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 5-10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 5-9 p.m. Sundays.