Ruben Hernandez

Bomberos is the bomb

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Photo: Maria Konopken

The Valley of the Sun lacks for authentic restaurants and bars owned by South Americans with South American themes, drinks and cuisines.

Whenever one pops up, it quickly becomes a magnet for transplanted South and Central Americans.

There’s Inza Coffee in Scottsdale, a coffee house owned by a Colombian with specialty empanadas and international coffees. These kinds of places become hot spots for Americans from the planet’s southern hemisphere.

Now there is Bomberos.

Bomberos Café & Wine Bar opened on far north Central Avenue near Sunnyslope in late   November. It features a Latin-themed menu with South American wines, Latin American beers, specialty coffees and teas, and a light but eclectic  food menu.

Owned by Oscar and Kristi Mastrantuono, bomberos is Spanish for “firemen” and is located in what used to be a Sunnyslope fire station on Central Avenue just north of Northern. The renovations include an outside patio and dining.

Oscar is from Uruguay and comes from a long line of entrepreneurs in that country. Opening a wine café in Phoenix that specializes in his Latin heritage has long been a dream of the Mastrantuonos, and when this unique location opened in their own neighborhood, they knew that this was the time to fulfill that dream.

“I grew up in my family’s bodega in Uruguay and New York and I always knew that this was what I wanted to do,” Oscar says. “I’m thrilled to offer a flavor of my heritage and fill a niche in the Valley for those in search of a lively local hangout that mixes an old-world theme with a hip and modern touch.”

The Mastrantuonos’ have designed Bombero’s to be a neighbor friendly. Oscar lives a few minutes away, and can be seen riding to and from his shifts on a bright red, ’74 Vespa scooter. Soon Bomberos will offer pedicab rides to all locals within a mile radius, he adds.

The restaurant opens at 7 a.m. in the morning for early drop-bys, and is so kid-friendly they put cartoons on the TV Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Artist and literary types are attracted by the free Wi Fi with coffee or wine. There is live, Brazilian music performed on Saturday nights. The café stays opens until midnight on weekdays and until 1 p.m. on Saturday.

As an added bonus, Oscar says, soccer fanatics can get their fixes on TVs in the bar – even at odd hours.

“If there is a World Cup game at 4 a.m. in the morning, then I’ll come and open at 4 a.m.,” he promises.

Wine Tips

Drink what you like.
Old notions of wine and food pairings are just that – old. These days, it’s considered perfectly acceptable to trust your own tastes. In general, though, remember that heartier fare is better suited to full-bodied red wines, while lighter bites often go better with a weightless white.

Use all your senses.
You tongue senses just four tastes – salty, sweet, bitter and sour – meaning much of the pleasure of wine comes from the hundreds of aromas your nose is capable of picking up. After pouring your glass, look at, sniff it, swirl it gently, sniff it again, and, finally, drink it.

Know your types.
Most wines fit into one of four categories: red, white, dessert or other. Good reds to know: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chianti, Shiraz and Zinfandel. Good whites to know: Chablis, Chardonnay, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling. Good dessert wines to know: Madeira, Port, Sherry and Vermouth. Others: Champagne, Rose.

Bomberos Café & Wine Bar 8801 N. Central Ave.
(south of Dunlap), Phoenix.  Open 7 a.m. –  midnight,
Monday – Thursday;
7 a.m. – 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday; 7 a.m. – 3 p.m., Sunday. (602) 687-8466.

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