"We believe in keeping traditions alive. We focus on moles because it's one of the more traditional dishes that has not been Americanized. It has not been exposed as it should be," says Alonso Arelleno, who co-owns the restaurants with Camacho and his wife, Elsa. "Rocio takes six to eight hours just to create one mole, because she does everything from scratch."
The menu at the Tarzana location is mostly the same as the other locations, with a few additions such as frijoles de la olla. The beans are served with a platter of chopped serrano and habanero chiles and onions on the side.
"Traditionally in Mexico, we get frijoles de la olla," Arelleno says, explaining how the dish of black beans is slow-cooked for hours with no lard or oil, which are frequently added to refried beans. "It's something that you should find at a Mexican restaurant, but you don't."
He notes that community outreach and cultural preservation often drive the operation of the 60-seat restaurant. The Tarzana location, for instance, will feature artwork by local artist Manuel Figueroa. The restaurant has donated money and food to Cal State University Northridge's folklorico dance troupe. Rocio's also will be partnering with a nonprofit organization called Youth Speaks Collective to source the restaurant's produce from the community garden in Pacoima.
"Not only do families rent small plots so they can raise their own vegetables, but these kids after school will go and work in their own gardens. They grow vegetables and they have a little farmers market to sell their vegetables outside of this lot on the weekends," Arelleno says. "They can't sell most of them, so a lot of them go to waste. We're going to be buying vegetables or as much as they can produce."
"We will go to them first for ingredients. We're giving them priority and we're paying them just like we would pay any other vendor."
The trio is looking into the prospect of opening other locations soon, taking into consideration customer suggestions.
"In Sun Valley, we're a destination restaurant. People drive very far to go to the restaurant. They tell us to open a restaurant near them," he says.
Rocio's made the Weekly's list of essential restaurants in L.A., but it is the restaurant's signature -- and part of its namesake -- mole de los dioses, or mole of the gods, that we thought was "worth naming a restaurant after."
Editor's Note: Rocio Camacho and Alonso Arelleno (who shares his ownership with wife Elsa) do not own the location in Bell as originally published in the post on Friday. They own the locations in Sun Valley and Tarzana.
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