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Pittsfield's new restaurant and market Placita Latina preps to offer classic Salvadoran dishes and a bilingual staff

Maria Romero Valdez supervises preparation for the opening of Placita Latina

Maria Romero Valdez supervises Josué Andrade Torres in the kitchen at Placita Latina. The restaurant is at 41 North St. in Pittsfield and opens later this week. 

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PITTSFIELD — Vladimir Cruz Romero struggled to find quick lunch options while working at the now-closed El Gallo Más Gallo (The Bravest Rooster) at 90 North St. In his home country of El Salvador, he was used to the availability of already-cooked lunches for busy people.

That is something Cruz Romero is excited to bring to Pittsfield.

On Friday, together with his mother, Maria Romero Valdez, and her partner, Abraham Lopez de la Cruz, who is from Oaxaca, Mexico, they will open Placita Latina Restaurant and Market at 41 North St.

"There will be different food available every day from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and to make it easy, we will charge about $12 per pound," said Cruz Romero.

The menu will feature Salvadoran and Mexican dishes, with prices starting at $8. The space, which includes a small convenience store and bakery, will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. It will sell a variety of agua frescas – non-alcoholic beverages popular in Latin America – such as Mexican horchata (made with rice) and Salvadoran horchata (made with melon or morro, a coconut-like seed).

Vladimir Cruz Romero and his mother Maria Romero Valdez are opening Placita Latina

Vladimir Cruz Romero and his mother, Maria Romero Valdez, are opening Placita Latina, a Salvadoran and central American restaurant and market, with partner Abraham Lopez de la Cruz. The restaurant is at 41 North St. in Pittsfield. 

The team at Placita Latina is excited to introduce pupusas to Pittsfield. These corn flatbreads are about four inches in diameter and can be filled with refried beans, cheese or pork, among other options.

Cruz Romero said pupusas are a staple in El Salvador and are eaten any time of day. In fact, they are so popular the Salvadoran government declared pupusas the national dish in 2005 and marked the second Sunday of November National Pupusas Day.

While doing market research, Cruz Romero, Romero Valdez and Lopez de la Cruz devised a "pupusas test." Starting in 2021, they set up a series of Saturday "pupusa events" in Pittsfield at El Gallo, where people could order and pick up pupusas.

Romero Valdez, who worked at her family's Salvadoran and Mexican restaurant in Hudson, N.Y., cooked the pupusas there and then drove an hour to deliver them. Some Berkshires residents started traveling an hour to get their pupusa fix. That's when the team realized they could proceed with plans to open a restaurant.

Initially, navigating bureaucracy was daunting for the team at El Gallo, due to a language barrier.

However, they found an ally in Pittsfield's public health director, Andy Cambi, who speaks Spanish. They also realized that the space, which was last occupied three years ago by J. Allen's ClubHouse Grill, needed inspections and repairs.

The team has found it easy to recruit staff. They have gotten to know many Latinos in the area who are excited to join the venture. Cruz Romero believes this will give them an edge over restaurants where the wait staff does not speak Spanish.

Placita Latina, a Salvadoran -- Central America- restaurant

Vladimir Cruz Romero and his mother, Maria Romero Valdez, are opening Placita Latina, a Salvadoran and Mexican restaurant and market, with partner Abraham Lopez de la Cruz.

"There are people who don't speak English. They don't understand what the menu says, so they don't know how to order food," Cruz Romero said. He hopes that their bilingual waiters will make anyone feel welcome, no matter what language they speak or how confident they feel speaking it.

With a capacity for more than 100 guests, the space includes general seating, a private room for about 20 people and a bigger event room the team is working on getting ready.

The team is completing final touches, and the "Coming Soon" banner hanging in their window since the summer will be taken down this week.

Aina de Lapparent Alvarez can be reached at aalvarez@berkshireeagle.com.

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