4 Friends Open Mexican Eatery Off the Beaten Path
Rustic Hip Sets the Tone at Gringo’s in Jersey City
By Sally Deering
Photos by Fermin Mendoza
Gringo’s Jersey City, It’s the only restaurant in town with a sawed-off milk truck in the dining room. Gringo’s, the new Mexican eatery that just opened a few weeks ago in Downtown Jersey City features a sawed-in-half milk truck where Chef Rick Truocchio and his crew prepare dishes like Holy Mole tacos and Guac.
Darren Conway and his partners Rebecca Tarantino, James Ventola and Chef Rick Truocchio have transformed a greasy old mechanic’s garage on Coles Street into a cavernous casual Mexican bistro with picnic-table seating, cocktails on tap; and baskets of purple maracas to shake whenever the mood strikes.
“The idea came about when we were at Pier 13 and talked about opening a space together,” Conway says. “I always wanted to do a Mexican restaurant, but what do a bunch of gringos know about opening a Mexican restaurant? I sat on it for a bit and then came up with the idea of an old rustic-looking space, a Mexican place off the beaten path, old and beaten up. I kind of ran with the idea. I designed the space and came up with the concept.”
Nachos and Salsas
Gringo’s menu features Mexican staples like tacos and nachos with a twist. There are appetizers like Chips & Salsa, Guac, Grilled Corn Esquites, Avocado Bites, Toasted Cashew and ‘Peppa’ Hummus and chorizo and cheese stuffed jalapenos called Poppin’ Off ($6-$9). The Taco menu features the Buffalo Soldier with tempura jumbo shrimp and buffalo sauce, the Holy Mole taco with grilled organic chicken, and the We Found Nemo taco with crispy fish and mango-jicama slaw ($10-$15).
“Our chef and partner Rick designed the entire menu and everything is made in-house everyday,” Conway says. “We have no freezers. Whatever we get on a daily basis is what we serve. Everything is really fresh and most of the ingredients are organic. We are getting a high quality product for our customers; and, we have vegetarian and vegan options, too. Most of our dishes are gluten-free.”
Chef Rick Truocchio
Gringo’s extensive drink menu features Cocktails, Cerveza, Tequilas, Mezcal and Bebidas. The cocktails include the El Gringo Margarita, the Rubi Rosa, the Corner Bodega, Beat the Pinata, Talum Punch, Polaco, El Chapo, the Frozen Margarita (of course!) and Nacho Mama’s Sangria ($9-$12; you can also buy them by the pitcher for $39-$41). The Mezcal “Age”, “Ultimo” and Tequila are $17-$25.
Cocktails on tap: the Ruby Rosa,
Frozen Margarita, El Chapo and Poloco.
The restaurant seats 60 inside, 70 outside, and 18 at the bar. That’s a lot of space to mix & mingle compared to some of the smaller bar/restaurants in town. Plans are underway for live entertainment: Conway says Gringo’s will serve a Mariachi Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays in the fall.
On a recent Friday afternoon, the waitstaff and crew were already serving customers at the bar and in the dining room when the doors opened at 5 pm. Tarantino and Ventola were seating guests and keeping things flowing. Partners Conway and Tarantino also own Pier 13 in Hoboken, an outdoor beer garden near 14th street; and the crew is preparing for the Grand Opening of Gringo’s Staten Island.
“Darren and I have been friends a long time,” Ventola says, as he heads outside to talk to the waitstaff.
“We all have different strengths,” Tarantino adds.
If you go
Gringo’s Mexican restaurant/bar
12 Coles St, JC
Hours: Mon-Thurs, 5 pm-midnight
Fri & Sat, 5 pm-2 am
Sun, 5 pm-10 pm