Growing up in Guadalajara, Angelica Villasenor was the only one of her seven siblings who hated to cook. When Villasenor’s father opened a Mexican restaurant in Kent and asked her and her siblings to help out, she secured a bartending position and let her siblings take care of the cooking roles. Now, her Capitol Hill restaurant D’ La Santa is getting ready to begin its third year of business with an expansion plan that will put that bartending experience to good use.
D’ La Santa is getting ready to add a new catty-cornered bar and six-table patio to its 10th Ave E location. Along with the bar comes an addition of authentic Mexican cocktails and new food items including handmade traditional and green tortillas made with Poblano peppers.
“Finally we have a restaurant that tastes like Mexico,” Villasenor said.
During the decade Villasenor’s father’s restaurant grew, so did Villasenor’s love for cooking. Eventually in 2016 Villasenor considered opening a restaurant of her own in the city, but she didn’t have the money, a location or professional training as a chef. Now, after opening two years ago next month, Villasenor’s authentic Mexican restaurant D’ La Santa in Capitol Hill is expanding.
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What started off as a modest opening of 25 tables and trial and error has transformed into an oasis of traditional cuisine unmatched by other Mexican restaurants in the area. The culture of Mexico is highlighted in the menu items from various states in Mexico and in the hand-designed Mexican decor.
“I decided to go to Mexico and bring our own culture here,” Villasenor said.
Just as her father’s restaurant was a family affair, most of Villasenor’s family works with her at D’ La Santa. Her brother mans the grill, her husband is in the kitchen, her daughters, nieces and nephews help serve and cook. Every night Villasenor, her staff and her family pushes the tables together for a family meal.
Over these meals has come chatter of opening a second location, but with the bar and patio expansion on the horizon, Villasenor is focused on perfecting her first location before taking on a second.
Villasenor credits her culinary skills to her mother and father. Her father taught her how to run a restaurant, but her skills in the kitchen came from her mother. D’ La Santa is named in tribute to her mother, who still continues to teach and critique Villasenor’s recipes at D’ La Santa.
“This is all because of my mom and my dad,” Villasenor said. “My mom has taught me everything I know in the kitchen.”
The expansion and new bar will mean growing the flavors at D’ La Santa which is already famous for its enormous and delicious margaritas. It will also mean a new, larger revenue opportunity for the business where the tables are already filled every night in a challenged restaurant location that has seen a cycle of projects come and go over the years.
The expansion will also be part of a miniature Capitol Hill trend. Broadway’s La Cocina just debuted its expanded cantina space last weekend.
La Cocina is coming up on its 40th year of business. If D’ La Santa can last that long, Villasenor will also have lots of good stories to tell. Over the past two years, the restaurant has been patronized by an owner of the Seahawks, Macklemore, the chef and staff from the Oscars, and has received rave reviews from the media and, importantly, visiting and neighborhood diners.
Villasenor hopes, with her family at the forefront of her authentic cuisine, that she can surround people with reminders of home through her food, her family and her culture. She also hopes to expand people’s perception of what Mexican cuisine is.
“Mexico is more than beans and rice,” Villasenor said. “We have an incredible gastronomy and people need to know.”
D’ La Santa is located at 2359 10th Ave E. You can learn more on the D’ La Santa Facebook page.