Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria, location Liberty Station, is a culinary masterpiece resulting from the fusion of two masters – executive chef Emmanuel Piqueras and restaurateur Sammi Ladeki. Celebrating 5,000 square feet of pure joy, Pisco is a food tour-de-force. Mouth-watering traditional dishes align with contemporary fare perfectly paired with namesake Pisco brandy cocktails. A fine selection of South American wine, beer and brandy are also added to the cocktail mix.
The culinary mecca showcases an open kitchen for customers to see how and where the magic happens. Pisco’s indoor eatery sidles an outdoor patio, both pulsating with a colorful, vibrant flare. Add photographic murals, incredible art, decorative weaves and pottery, and customers experience fine dining in the land of the Amazon River and the Andes Mountains.
Hailing from Lima, Piqueras has been cooking for “always.” As a child he made ceviche, “an honest, fresh dish.” He began a tutelage at 22 under chef Don Cucho La Rosa, in the famous restaurant Pantagruel. The protégé graduated from Lima’s Le Cordon Bleu in 1999. Training continued in Spain alongside noted “master” of New Basque cuisine, chef Juan Mari Arzak in his namesake eatery. Arzak was awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide as one of the world’s 50 best restaurants.
In 2003, the prodigy spearheaded his talent in American kitchens including Andina in Portland, Mixtura in Seattle, Limon in San Francisco, and Panca in New York. Dubbed the officially culinary ambassador to Peru through Promperú, America and Canada’s tourism boards, Piqueras cooked for celebrities and royalty, including President Jimmy Carter, the first lady of Peru and the Queen of Spain.
Thirty years ago, Ladeki opened his first Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza in La Jolla, cornering the market with a then novelty – pizza cooked in a wood-burning stove. Today, the “grandfather of San Diego restaurateurs,” owns 20 eateries throughout San Diego, Las Vegas Valley, Los Angeles, Palm Desert and Sacramento.
Ladeki also boasts of an impressive history in the hospitality industry. After graduating from the College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, Germany, he spent a year at London’s Westbury Hotel. Recruited by the internationally acclaimed hotel and resort chain Sonesta, Ladeki found himself at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Louisiana’s French Quarter for nearly a decade. The title of food and beverage manager at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas followed suit. He then added the popular Princess Hotel in Bermuda to the list.
A “serendipitous outing” joined Piqueras and Ladeki in a conversation about food that gave birth to Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria.
“Our cuisine’s amazing,” said Ladeki. “My executive chef Emmanuel Piqueras, is a Lima native, internationally recognized as a master technician of authentic Peruvian cooking. We’re so blessed to have him.”
“Peruvian food is a melting pot of flavors,” said Piqueras. “The Cantonese Chinese left a legacy of rice and stir fry. The Japanese showed us how to do more with fish, and ceviche’s in our DNA.”
Piqueras, an avid surfer who loves tacos, spoke as passionately about cooking Peruvian food as he did sharing the history behind it. The legacy is one of immigration, indigenous food, farming and industrialization.
Between 1849 and 1874, Chinese laborers migrated to Peru to serve as cheap labor. Jobs included working on the extensive expansion of the country’s railroad; harvesting sugar and cotton; and working in Peru’s guano mines – mines filled with accumulated excrement of seabirds and bats that was sold as fertilizer. By 1876, the Chinese accounted for 10 percent of Lima’s population. Ginger, soy sauce and scallions were among the foods these early immigrants blended with Peru’s abundance of avocados, corn, potatoes, pineapples and bananas.
The Japanese filtered in circa 1899. Described as “evolving seafood to an art,” these settlers introduced new slants on Peru’s signature dishes. Peruvian food became a fusion of vibrant flavors mixed with native ingredients. And nothing is more evident of this fusion than the delicious assortment offered by Pisco.
Pisco delicacies include pollo a la brasa, a slow roasted chicken that spends an entire day marinating in Peruvian spices. Made to order ceviche boasts of a Martini de Tigre, a martini glass of seafood immersed in leche de tigre, a citrus-based marinade, flavored with aji amarillo, Peru’s signature chile. Crunchy cancha corn and starchy choclo corn decorate the dish. And beef aficionados will swoon over the lomo saltado, a scrumptious beef stir fry nestled alongside chaufa aeropuerto – a pork fried rice with spicy garlic sauce.
Piqueras spoke passionately of Peru’s quinoa and potatoes, potatoes, and potatoes, touting the land’s almost 4,000 varieties. His “poor man’s chicken,” Aji de Gallina, leaves the palate feeling anything but poor. Creamy, mildly spicy shredded chicken is served with garlic rice and choclo — Peruvian corn — and sweet potato.
“We blend so many flavors for the perfect Peruvian cuisine,” concluded Piqueras.
“We want Pisco to be a local staple where our guests experience something different, have the opportunity to embrace other cultures, and enjoy a culinary journey with us,” concluded Ladeki.
Ladeki and Piqueras have now spread their wings to Carlsbad, recently opening their second Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria.
Pisco Rotisserie & Cevicheria
Where: 2401 Truxtun Rd Ste 102
Hours: 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Info: piscorotisserie.com, 619-222-3111.