Column: Mario Pablo’s neighborhood

Westchester-Wanderer-Lisa-JardineWith a new set of eyes, you see things you may have not even known were there even if you’ve driven down the main street of that town hundreds of times. When you take a second look with those new eyes, you might meet someone with a strong passion for his hometown and it can be infectious.

It was just that kind of experience I had when I met Mario Pablo while doing research for another article. Mario is half Uruguayan and half Peruvian and grew up in Port Chester. He’s made it his business to promote the town he loves both online and off. He is a fixture in the town and hard to miss. Just look for the tall young man carrying a worn leather briefcase that looks like something a man 50 years older would carry.

“My dad bought this for me when I was eight. He said he knew I’d grow up to be a business man,” Pablo said.

Mario and his partner Christian Serron, who is based in Montevideo, Uruguay, own BROS Marketing, which stands for Building Relationships and Opportunities for Success, a global branding and marketing company which builds brands by focusing on the people side of business. BROS just launched a new website, which describes itself as a realtime look at everything going on in the Village of Port Chester so you can make the most out of your next visit. And these guys are in their 20’s, so, of course, they incorporate the most widely used social media platforms available today. The result is the virtual face of a small village in Westchester.

I asked Mario to take me on a walk around the actual Village of Port Chester and introduce me to some of the places that have signed up for his service–look for the blue and white sticker in the store front window.

We started the afternoon at T&J’s Pizza and Pasta. Mena and Grace, the owners’ mothers, are in the kitchen cooking everyday and it’s evident they care about the food they are serving–you must try the meatballs. They’ve been open 22 years and still serve around 300 meals on a Saturday. Wednesday night they have a special pasta night, which I’ve been told it’s a zoo. When I asked about how many different types of pizza they offered, Ray, one of the owners said, “Our food is good so why not put it on pizza? Everything we make as food, we put on our pizza.”

On the way to our next stop, Mario pointed out Tortilleria Los Gemelos, where they make their own chips and tortillas, which they sell in the restaurant and distribute to other restaurants. And then we arrived at Texas Chili, where we were served the “Mario Pablo” Chili Cheese Dog. The bun was toasted to perfection and the hotdog was split and grilled with just the right amount of spicy chili and fresh avocado on top. It was fun to eat and virtually mess free. Take out is a big part of Texas Chili’s business, especially around July 4. They supply more chili to backyard BBQs than almost anyone else around. They are currently located on Main Street, but will soon move across from the train station imminently.

I was getting pretty thirsty from our journey and Mario had the perfect spot in mind. On our way to Acuario for Pisco Sours, he pointed out Pollo A La Brasa, which he said makes the best Lomo Saltado in town. While walking to the other side of Port Chester, I asked Mario if it was his goal to sign up every retail shop for and he said he was all about quality.

“I’m looking for the gems of Port Chester,” he said. “Most businesses here have either no presence online or the wrong one.”

Of course, his is completely scalable and could work for any small town. He definitely has big plans for his site.

When we arrived at Acuario, we met the owner, Eduardo, outside and he invited us in for a Pisco Sour. Pisco is a type of brandy made in Peru, which Mario said if I tried straight up, would be suicide. But hand-mixed with fresh lemon juice and egg whites is a different story. The drink is finished with a dash of cinnamon and served with a lime wedge. It was very refreshing and tasted like a margarita with a twist.

We talked about all of the various cultures represented in Port Chester and I asked Mario about his favorite spot for arepas. Los Chuzos de Juancho is new in town and serves Columbian food, specifically arepas and really great fruit smooties.

It was time for dessert, so we headed over to Neri’s, a 100-year-old bakery that sells retail and distributes wholesale throughout the tri-state area. Anthony Neri is the fourth generation to work in the family bakery and he gave me some impressive statistics about their business. They produce around 4,000 bagels an hour, 800 cannoli per day and 400 to 500 cakes per weekend. They are open every day because, according to Neri, “a lot of people would be very upset if we closed.”

They make a mean cannoli with a crispy shell, just the right amount of sweetness in the cream and a few well-placed chocolate chips. And they even sell them in mini size so you don’t have to feel too guilty about eating them.

To finish off the day, Mario and I stopped in to El Tio’s, which translates into The Uncle. Mario explained that the owner is everyone’s Mexican uncle, offering not just the most authentic Mexican food in town, but also great business advice to young entrepreneurs like himself. We were at El Tio’s to try a Horchata, a rice milk drink with vanilla and cinnamon served on ice and extremely refreshing on a hot day. For $1 there really isn’t anything to compare it to. Mario suggested I come back to try the enchiladas with mole or the burritos, which he said are really good.

Several hours and calories later Mario and I parted ways at the corner of Westchester and Pearl, a favorite meeting spot for Mario. I think I’ll drive a little slower next time I’m in Port Chester; you never know what hidden gems you might find.

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