August 7, 2011
The Times Tribune
Garibaldi Authentic Mexican Cuisine came about through a series of coincidences and chance encounters. But since the West Side eatery opened in February, it has been busy almost nonstop, according to its owners.
Silvana Benavides, who co-owns Garibaldi with her husband, Andres, was a local Realtor and accountant with numerous connections around the city thanks to her tax preparation office in South Scranton and her mostly Latino clientele. It was through this office that she got to know tax client Isabel Sanchez, who has been working as a cook for more than 30 years.
When Mrs. Benavides got a call about selling a vacant building in West Scranton, she started to think about the possibilities.
"We (my husband and I) talked about it, and thought, 'Maybe we could do this,'" she said.
"We agreed, 'Why don't we give it a try?'" Mr. Benavides said with a shrug.
After getting Ms. Sanchez, a Puebla, Mexico, native, on board as their cook, the couple opened to a warm reception thanks to the many people they already knew, and more than a few curious diners.
Named for a plaza in Mexico City famously known as the "home of mariachi music," Garibaldi features, as its name suggests, authentic Mexican cuisine, including freshly made burritos, enchiladas, tortas (sandwiches), salads and tacos in seven varieties. Ms. Sanchez also prepares homemade guacamole and up to six kinds of salsa, varying in spiciness.
"People think because it is Mexican, it's all very spicy," Mr. Benavides said. "But it's not like that."
The establishment is BYOB, and on Fridays, guests are encouraged to bring their own bottles of tequila, to be mixed by the staff in tasty margaritas.
A long counter and plenty of tables provide seating for 56, and the walls are painted brightly to reflect the family-friendly, happy atmosphere the couple hopes to encourage. Getting the restaurant into the shape it is today was not easy, however.
After being empty for years, the floors needed to be redone, and everything needed a good cleaning and layer or two of paint to meet the standards of the owners for serving food.
"It's really more of an adventure than anything else," Mrs. Benavides said. "It's been great."
Mr. and Mrs. Benavides both are from Bogota, Columbia, but did not meet until they were living in the United States. They plan to add at least one Columbian dish, called Bandeja Paisa, to the menu, to offer a little taste of their homeland.
Eventually, they said, they'd like to branch out in the area and open a couple more similar restaurants, perhaps in Wilkes-Barre or other nearby cities. Additionally, they are in the process of preparing a food truck, which will be called Garibaldi on Wheels, that will serve the same homecooking found in the restaurant at locations throughout the city within the next few weeks.
Catering also is available on-premises, and having already successfully served a party of 100 so far, they are looking forward to an upcoming group of 400. Deliveries are available from 6 to 9 p.m. daily for dinner.
Mr. Benavides added that many people appreciate the way Ms. Sanchez cooks out in the open, in front of diners, so that they can see exactly what goes into their food. He cited the cleanliness of the restaurant, along with the great food, good environment and fair prices as the reasons Garibaldi has seen people actually waiting outside at times, as they did during a recent Cinco de Mayo party co-sponsored by POWER! Scranton (of which Mrs. Benavides is a member), Sunita Arora of ERA One Source Realty and The ROC Social Club.
Mrs. Benavides said that they thought it made sense to bring authentic Mexican food to West Scranton, where she said she doesn't feel as though she has any competition serving food of a similar quality and taste in that part of town.
"We thought it would be good for this side," Mrs. Benavides explained. We are happy. To me, it was amazing to have people even on our first day."
"We learn something new everyday, and I like that," her husband added.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org Garibaldi Authentic Mexican Cuisine
Address: 309 N. Main Ave., West Scranton
Owners: Silvana and Andres Benavides
Established: Feb. 4, 2011
Hours: Mondays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Prices: 99 cents to $10
Cuisine: Authentic Mexican
Scranton, PA 18505 570(341-9030)
Mon-Sat: 11am to 9pm