After trying several concepts at the restaurant space next to East by Southwest, Sergio Verduzco thinks he’s finally got a keeper – traditional, “old school” Italian.
About two weeks ago, Verduzco and his wife, Hydi, opened Mama Silvia’s, a 50-seat restaurant located next to East by Southwest, the 70-seat sushi and Japanese fusion restaurant, that has become a Durango favorite.
“The space has been going back and forth,” Verduzco said. “It was a Thai place and vegan, but those concepts aren’t quiet as large as Italian. They didn’t really work, but I wanted to bring something different to Durango.”
His first 10 years working as a chef, he said, came in fine Italian restaurants in Las Vegas, including stints under chefs Piero Selvaggio and Gianni Russo.
“Everyone in the kitchen spoke Italian, right off the boat,” said Verduzco, who was born in Mexico City and grew up in Las Vegas.
The concept plays to his strength as a European-culinary, classically-trained chef, he said. The restaurant strives to preserve the authentic touches and details of regional Italian fare, he added.
Meats, cheeses, olive oil, vinegars and some of the pastas will be imported from Italy.
As the restaurant gains its stride, Verduzco said, Mama Silvia’s will add pasta and a fish of the day daily specials.
Fourteen different pasta selections include Spaghetti Marinara, $16; Pappardelle alla Bolognese, $19; Paglia e Fieno $19; Fettucine Alfredo, $19; and Penne alla Puttanesca, $18.
The restaurant also offers antipastos, salads and entrées featuring free range veal and chicken, as well as meats and fish. Also, a wide wine selection as after-dinner drinks will be offered.
Opening an Italian restaurant, Verduzco said, should end a problem that arose when East by Southwest was adjacent to the Thai restaurant, called Golden Triangle, and the vegan concept, Zen Cuisine. Verduzco said clients at East by Southwest would occasionally ask for Thai or vegan dishes from the neighboring restaurant.
With the opening of Mama Silvia’s, Verduzco said, clients will not be able to cross order from the two restaurant’s menus.
Offering Italian cuisine also has brought in a new crowd.
“We’re seeing a lot of the old guard of Durango,” he said. “They’re different customers than what we see at East by Southwest. We’re not taking away from East by Southwest. It’s a different clientele.”
The restaurant is named after Verduzco’s mother who passed away in March, when he was working to open the restaurant.
“I became a chef because of a friend of my mom’s. You know how they say when your parents pass, they become your guardian angels. That’s why I have an angel by the door,” he said.
Initially, Verduzco was thinking using Sergio’s, as the restaurant’s moniker “because that sounds Italian” but dropped the idea to honor his mother after her death.
Several paintings from Sylvia Verduzco grace the walls of the restaurant and a picture of Sergio with his mother is featured on the restaurant’s menu.
Verduzco plans to have special events at the restaurant each July 26, his mother’s birthday.
“My mother loved to cook and have friends over, and Italian cooking and restaurants embrace that,” he said.