Luis Garza just loves Italian food, something he has proved by spending much of the past 20 years cooking pastas and veal dishes in local Italian restaurants.
For years, he was in the kitchen at the much-loved Ristorante di Modesta. When it closed, he moved to the flagship Andiamo Italia on Telegraph Road at Maple in Bloomfield Township, with stints, as well, at Andiamo Riverfront downtown and Andiamo Novi.
Now, at age 42, Garza is getting back to his Linares, Mexico, roots, creating signature recipes that reflect his heritage, dishes such as camarones rellenos and baked red snapper, as well as the more familiar enchiladas, fajitas, and burritos — all made in the gleaming kitchen at the new Rojo Mexican Bistro in Novi.
The restaurant opened in mid-November with Garza as executive chef and two of his Andiamo colleagues, CEO Joe Vicari and Dan Linnen, who is the owner/operator of Andiamo Novi.
Garza had never abandoned his passion for his native cuisine, and often during his Andiamo days, he would cook Mexican dishes for the staff.
When Andiamo Novi added some of Garza’s dishes to the array at private parties and tastings, Linnen noticed that “people would line up at the Mexican station.”
As a lover of Mexican fare and frequent traveler to Mexico himself, Linnen says he told Vicari, “Joe, we’ve got to open a Mexican restaurant.”
About a year and a half ago, the partners got serious and began planning Rojo in earnest.
“We wanted a different twist,” Linnen says. “No adobe walls and sombreros. We wanted it to be contemporary — a P.F. Chang’s approach to Mexican.”
Designer David Savage put together an upscale environment using stone, mahogany, and metalwork finishes accented by paintings reminiscent of Diego Rivera’s work.
Almost everything is made in-house, including the freshly squeezed juices used for the margaritas. Among the house specialties is made-at-the-table guacamole.
Garza’s mother, Maria Garza, who was his formative culinary influence, and, on some nights, works at his side in the kitchen doing prep work, which may help explain his affection for the job.
“I love to cook,” the younger Garza says. “I put all my love into it.”
Rojo Mexican Bistro, 12 Mile Crossing at Fountain Walk, 44375 12 Mile Rd., Novi; 248-374-4600.