In Spanish, Geronimo means sacred. In Ambler, it means a Peruvian dining adventure, featuring ingredients and recipes from the land of the Incas.
In Spanish, Geronimo means sacred. In Ambler, it means a Peruvian dining adventure, featuring unique ingredients and recipes from the land of the Incas.
While the menu may be new territory for many, the location, 131-A E. Butler Ave., is probably familiar. It was formerly occupied by Vida & Comida, an Italian eatery that was closed when the owners decided to focus on their other Ambler restaurant, La Provence. This turned out to be a lucky break for the new owners.
“We were driving around, and as soon we saw the space was available, we thought it was the perfect place to share our Peruvian culture and heritage,” said executive chef/owner Benjamin Salazar, who opened Germonimo’s in 2021 with his brother, Daniel Salazar, who co-owns and manages the restaurant.
“The restaurant is named after my 93 year-old grandfather who still lives in Lima, Peru,” said Benjamin who sports a jaunty handlebar mustache. “My experience with Peruvian cuisine comes from growing up in my grandfather’s house and watching my mother in the kitchen. Everything on the menu is from our roots,” said Benjamin, whose family came to the United States in 2003.
If your familiarity with Latin American cuisine mostly comes from Mexican, Cuban, Brazilian and Argentinian restaurants, be prepared for a culture shock. “Peru’s biodiversity is immense. We have 3,500 different types of potatoes,” Benjamin said. “Plus, the Inca influence and the migration of Africans and Asians created a special culture and cuisine. None of our dishes are spicy hot. We want to make our menu approachable. Many of our dishes contain garlic, onions, cilantro and lemon.”
Meals start with a small ramekin of salted, roasted corn kernels which quickly become as irresistible as popcorn. “You’ll find this in every restaurant in Peru,” Daniel said. Then comes warm bread served with a salty sweet butter infused with quince. Follow that with Chupe de Camarones, a hearty shrimp chowder. Popular menu items include Lomos Saltado, tender beef tenderloin tips, red onion, tomatoes, sauteed in a wok and served with thick cut French fries and rice. (You need the rice to sponge up the tasty sauce.) But don’t go mistaking Germonimo’s fettuccine with shrimp, mussels and calamari for an Italian dish. “Our Pasta Con Mariscos is made with ingredients only found in Peru,” Daniel said. Even their Tiramisu comes with a Peruvian twist. It is made with cherimoya, a sweet tropical fruit, and their ice cream is made in-house.
Although Germonimo’s is the Salazars’ first restaurant, they both have 20 years of experience. “I worked my way up from dishwasher to cook and chef at a Horsham restaurant. My brother started as a busboy, server and bartender before managing restaurants in Florida and Montgomery County,” Benjamin said.
Their front- and back-of-the-house experience is evident at Germonimo’s where Benjamin is in the kitchen and Daniel welcomes customers and explains the “story” behind menu items. When a customer ordered Causas Limeñas, a towering appetizer containing Peruvian yellow peppers layered with potato puree, avocado, lime and a choice of shrimp, chicken, octopus or vegan salad, Daniel described the impressive dish’s humble origins. “This recipe started when people were poor and found a way to use potatoes to create a special occasion dish. When you go to a family celebration in Peru, Causas Limeñas will always be on the table.” (Note: Portions are generous. Be prepared to share or ask for a doggie bag.)
First impressions are important. Daniel greets every customer not just with a smile, but as if they are family. No one is left to ponder the menu on their own. A congenial server will patiently walk you through every option, from Conchas a la Parmesana, scallops on the half shell with cheese and lime, to Filet Mignon Con Fettuccini, filet mignon with mushrooms in Madeira wine and fettuccine in a creamy Peruvian sauce.
The décor is elegant and understated. White table clothes glisten under sparkling chandeliers. Pale gray walls are punctuated with colorful landscape paintings of Peru. Tables are well-spaced to accommodate everyone from single diners to parties of eight.
Opening during the pandemic had its challenges. “But customers have been very loyal to us,” Benjamin said. “On Fridays and Saturdays, we have a full house.”
The restaurant’s location across from the Ambler Movie Theater is a bonus. Patrons make pre-theater reservations for the weekends, and the Fine Wine & Good Spirits store across the street makes it easy for customers who forgot to bring wine from home.
To celebrate their success, the Salazar brothers are closing Geronimo’s for one week in September to visit family in Peru. And, hopefully, to pry more recipes out of their grandfather. If you go without reservations, aim for Tues-Thurs, 5-9 p.m. Reservations are highly recommended for Fridays, 5-10 p.m.; Saturdays, 1-10 p.m.; Sundays, 1-9 p.m. Closed Mondays. (215) 641-0900 or GeronimosAmbler.com.