Growing up on the Pacific Ocean in his native Peru, Jose Draganac ate a lot of fish.
He began cooking at an early age and honed his skills, first at culinary school in Lima, studying under fellow countryman and celebrated chef Gastón Arcurio, then working for 15 years at home and in the United States, most recently with the Z Hospitality, a group of area restaurants that includes Solé, Mediterraneo and Terra.
There, he connected restaurateur Wilson Rodriguez—part of a group that had opened Costa Brava in Norwalk and Macarena Tapas in Stamford—and the pair decided to realize a shared vision in opening Draganac’s own place.
“It’s always on the back burner,” Draganac said Monday from the dining floor of Pesca Peruvian Bistro at 70 Main St. “As a chef, you want to do your own thing. It’s a passion that you have and something that you have to get the right time, the right partner, the right people to get together to make something successful.”
So far, so good.
Since soft-opening last month, Draganac and Rodriguez—residents of Stamford and Norwalk, respectively—say the response to Pesca has been “amazing.”
“People have responded so well, and they have been supporting us,” Rodriguez said.
Located in the former Plum Tree space and accessible from Main Street by stairs or elevator, the 110-seat restaurant features an outdoor dining area for warmer months and its menu is “mostly seafood,” Draganac said, with “a touch of a modern twist to traditional Peruvian dishes.”
Menu items include: appetizers such as Choros a la Chalaca (steamed mussels topped with diced fresh tomato, red onions, chalaca salad, crispy tostones, Peruvian corn, fresh lime and extra virgin olive oil—$10), oyster on the half shell ($12), Aguadito Chicken Soup (cilantro, diced root vegetables, jasmine rice, fresh lime—$8) and Duo a la Huancaina (fried yucca, baby potatoes, serviced with aji amarillo huacaiana sacue, black olive tapenade, crisp lettuce and farm egg—$10); a selection of Ceviches such as Ceviche Terminal Pesquero (market fish, shrimp, scallops, calamari and mussels marinated with Rocoto leche de tigre, topped with crispy Peruvian seaweed ‘yuyo’ and calamari fritti—$22) and Veggie Ceviche (mushrooms, red onions, roasted cauliflower, extra virgin olive oil, lime juice and Peruvian corn—$16); Quinoa ($12), Caesar ($10) and Mercado Chopped Salads ($12); and entrees such as Lomo Saltado (blazing wok sautéed sliced beef, onions, peppers, tomatoes, scallions, hand-cut fries and rice with Peruvian corn ‘choclo’—$25), Grilled Salmon ($25), Grilled Hanger Steak ($26), Pesca Burger (grilled 8 oz patty, melted Muenster cheese, chorizo relish, lettuce, tomato, ‘al hilo’ fries, served a warm brioche bun—$18) and Chaufa de Pollo y Puerco (Cantonese influenced Peruvian stir-fry rice prepared in a fiery wok with ‘chancho asado’ char siu, roasted chicken breast, tamari, scallion, ginger root, bell peppers, snow peas, sesame oil, diced fried farm egg, oyster sauce—$16).
Noting that ‘pesca’ means fishing, Rodriguez said, “Peruvian cuisine is all about fish.”
“Mostly, where he [Draganac] comes from, is all about fish,” he said. “So, we decided that fish is our passion. We love fish, and this is what was missing in New Canaan.”
Pesca at 70 Main St. is open seven days a week. Lunch is served 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Happy Hour with drinks and app specials runs 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays and dinner is served until 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and until 10:30 p.m. Saturday, with brunch served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday and dinner served until 9 p.m. Sunday.