Exciting new flavors in DC
By Paloma Sanchez
What began as a conversation during the pandemic is now an exciting new restaurant called Mita. Its plant-based Latin American dishes are prepared by two renowned chefs: Miguel Guerra of the Michelin-star restaurant El Cielo and Tatiana Mora, co-owner of cocktail bar Serenata. The name Mita comes from the first syllable of each chef’s name.
Venezuelan-born Guerra recalls: “It was during the pandemic while we were under lockdown. As we were thinking about next steps, we said: ‘Let’s do something plant-based that tastes good.’”
Both chefs worked hard to create a cuisine that would stand out in the competitive restaurant scene of Washington, DC. The result was a pop-up in La Cosecha marketplace at Union Market near Capitol Hill. There was nothing else like it, and customers couldn’t get enough. But for the chefs to create a full-service restaurant, they needed the help of investors.
Guerra turned to Oscar Ramirez, co-founder of the 100% minority-owned lobbying firm Fulcrum Public Affairs. In 2019, Fulcrum was named as the “top-earning new firm” by Bloomberg Government and was also recently recognized as one of fastest-growing lobbying businesses in our nation’s capital.
Latino-owned businesses often face challenges obtaining credit and were especially vulnerable during the pandemic. In 2020, nearly 235 businesses in DC closed permanently. But Oscar reached out to friends and formed the restaurant investment group Suyana Investments. Suyana is a word in Quechua, the indigenous language of the Incas, meaning hope and faith. “We’re using our resources to make people’s dreams come true,” he says.
The investors are diverse and have all achieved a high level of success in their respective careers. In addition to Ramirez, there is Adrian Saenz, a veteran of the Obama and Biden administrations; Dana Thompson, Oscar’s partner and a co-founder of Fulcrum; Jorge Neri, who also worked in the White House; and Marina Torres, former Obama appointee and partner at the law firm of Wilkie, Farr & Gallagher.
“When we talked about it, we realized that we all got into politics to make a difference. We wanted to help empower communities of color. We were all in the White House, Congress or on political campaigns. After we did that, we all became business owners. Now, we have decided to invest in other people that also come from communities of color, beyond politics,” says Ramirez.
Empowering minority business owners is important not only because it offsets the negative effects of the pandemic but also creates new jobs. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Latino businesses resulted in $472.3 billion in annual revenue and employed nearly 2.9 million people in 2020.
Their collective dream is coming true with the opening of Mita in the trendy Shaw neighborhood at 804 V Street NW.
Guerra states: “We are focused on Latin American family recipes and bringing back those things we liked when we were kids. We’re trying to create a conscious cuisine and put vegetables at the center of the plate while also being sustainable and cautious of what to bring to the table. We’re definitely trying to give people a different experience showcasing our culture from a different point of view. Many people are used to seeing Latin American food as very meat driven.”
Both chefs envision people having a different experience with this brick-and-mortar restaurant in Shaw than the pop-up in La Cosecha. “It’s all about the food and experience showcasing our culture and roots in a different way and making sure that everyone enjoys it,” says Guerra.
Mita offers delicious food for all kinds of palates as well as the many benefits of eating organic and plant-based food. To check out the menu, visit www.mitaplantbased.com