Nixtaco’s owners pass down traditions and healthy habits to their daughters.
WRITTEN BY SHANNIN STEIN
PHOTOS BY KASSIE BORRESON
Since the wildly popular Nixtaco Mexican Taqueria opened in Roseville in June 2016, husband and wife owners Patricio Wise and Cinthia Martinez have had a lot on their plates. Wise is Nixtaco’s executive chef and literally the face of the restaurant — their newest T-shirts feature his face on the front.
“I’d much rather be behind the scenes,” he says, “but I guess somebody has to be the face.”
Usually, he’s at the restaurant seven days a week running the kitchen; producing the fresh, house-made tortillas, meeting with vendors; welcoming guests; and trying to accomplish hundreds of things on his daily punch list. Martinez is just as involved in operations — she plans events, manages marketing, and keeps the service on point. In addition to the ever-present demands of operating a successful restaurant, Wise and Martinez also share the awesome responsibility of raising three beautiful and precocious daughters: Rebecca, 5; Valentina, 3; and Julia, 18 months.
Wise and Martinez both were born and raised in Monterrey — a large, industrial city in Northeastern Mexico. Wise is the youngest — by 14 years — of six children.
Neither of the owners started out wanting a career in food — Wise practiced finance and banking, and Martinez taught dance at a studio she owned with her sister. They didn’t spend much time in kitchens as children, yet food was a huge part of the traditions of their youth.
“Eating and drinking [in Monterrey] is a social activity,” Wise says. “It’s an event.”
Sundays were for family time and always involved a carne asada — not the meat, but the Monterrey version of a backyard barbecue.
“It could be anything — chicken, pork, steak, you name it — as long as there was meat over fire and beer,” Wise says. “Get the family together, call some friends over, add some great food and drink, and it’s a carne asada.”
The Sunday carne asada is a tradition they’ve continued with their own children since moving to Roseville in 2010. Shortly after arriving, they met, purely by coincidence, other young families who had recently relocated from Monterrey. The families quickly became friends, and at least once a month on Sunday, they all get together for a carne asada.
“You can’t cook paella for one,” Martinez says, smiling.
Passion for food
After moving to the United States, Wise and Martinez noticed that many Americans seemed disengaged with food. It seemed they would simply “eat not to die” — as Wise bluntly puts it. They noticed a disconnect between what people ate and their understanding of that food.
“You have to enjoy and experience food,” Wise says. “It’s one of the pleasures of life.”
This is a passion they’ve instilled in their daughters.
Even with the demands of the restaurant, Martinez says she always finds time for cooking and baking at home. Wise and Martinez glow as they talk about their girls. Rebecca, the eldest, whom Martinez describes as “fierce,” loves being in the kitchen and always is willing to try new, exotic foods. Valentina is a bit more discerning and isn’t a fan of getting her hands dirty, but she does love to help when Martinez is baking. Valentina also is the macaroni and cheese connoisseur in the family. Julia, the youngest, already is a daring eater who loves avocados and eats them like they’re apples.
On Mondays, when Nixtaco is closed, Martinez brings the girls in after school so they can spend time with their father while he works and prepares the restaurant for the upcoming week. It’s a special time for them all, but especially for Wise, who wants his girls to have the same pride of ownership of Nixtaco that he and Martinez have.
One thing you can be sure of — there are no children’s menus at Nixtaco, a concept the couple finds unnecessary.
“They eat what we eat,” Wise exclaims.
Martinez says the girls appreciate more about food and cooking than she did until she was well into her 20s.
“We want them to understand that cooking isn’t about reading a recipe,” she says. “We want them to understand the execution and the reason for ingredients. We want them to be empowered to see recipes as suggestions, not absolutes.”
What’s the most important thing all three girls already know how to make?
“Tortillas,” Wise and Martinez proudly say at the same time.
And if you’ve already been fortunate enough to eat at Nixtaco, you know exactly why.
Shannin Stein is known to many in Sacramento’s restaurant community as a general manager, operations manager, and catering director for some of the area’s most popular restaurants and agribusinesses. She has been deeply involved in food activism for the last 10 years and was the founding president of the Sacramento chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, which focuses on mentoring women in the food, beverage, and hospitality industry.
1805 Cirby Way, Ste. 12, Roseville
916-771-4165 – Nixta.co
11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Tues. – Thurs.
11 a.m. – 1 a.m. Fri. – Sat.
11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Sun.