The traditional tastes of Patagonia, the southernmost area of South America, tend toward grilled meats and pasta. Argentina is renowned for its beef production and it enjoys a rich Italian heritage, but it also boasts an expansive coastline.
Chef Daniel Lucci, who with his wife, Silvia, owns Patagonia Bar and Grill in Richboro, specializes in fish. Although the eclectic menu features plenty of pasta, beef and other offerings, seafood reigns.
There is not, however, a ruling flavor. Lucci melds the flavors of his native Argentina with all the places he’s traveled. He did a lot of wandering before settling in the area, and when he did, he insisted on eating what the native people ate, incorporating the new tastes in his dishes.
If there is one flavor that stands out, it’s hot peppers.
“I’m crazy about hot peppers,” Lucci said.
He adds his favorite ingredient to marina sauce in moderation to give it “just enough heat” and it appears in his sweet potato jalapeno soup, a favorite of his clientele. “People are crazy for it,” he added.
It is this type of craziness that led to the couple opening Patagonia five years ago on Almshouse Road. They have run Newtown’s Café con Leche for 14 years. After working at Carversville Inn and Meil’s in Stockton, N.J., Lucci was hired to open two other restaurants in New Jersey.
His dishes were a hit, with many patrons telling him he should open his own place. He didn’t think he had the funds, but when Starbucks opened in Newtown, the owners of Café con Leche put their small coffeehouse on the market. It was an opportunity for Lucci.
“I got a good deal,” he says. The tiny restaurant was successful, but still small.
He expanded to Patagonia Bar and Grill, allowing him to serve exponentially more people.
“When you go big it’s hard to remain homemade,” he says after explaining that the kitchen produces its own soups, dressings, sauces and demi-glaze, but they still do. Their homemade Balsamico and Caesar dressings are sold at None Such Farm, Tanners and Shady Brook Farm.
Soon they’ll sell their soup, too. With fare such as African Grouper, Seabass Veracruz and Hot Pepper Lover’s Pasta, it’s doubtful that will affect the traffic through the restaurants’ doors.
The grouper is described as crusted with coconut and panko, with a sweet and tangy chili sauce; the seabass is sautéed with tomato Pernod sauce; and the penne pasta boasts chicken, chorizo, Daniel’s hot peppers and mushrooms in a spicy pancetta vodka sauce.
“For spice lovers,” Silvia Lucci said, “it is heaven. It’s rare to go to a place where there’s so much flavor. We get all the time, ‘Wow, this is the best meal of my life.'”
Her husband added, “It’s a lot of work, but I’m happy.”
Patagonia Bar and Grill, 59 Almshouse Road, Richboro, offers 50-percent off the entire menu eat-in or take-out for Happy Hour, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visit www.patagoniabarandgrill.com.