Chef Israel Nocelo and Owner Arturo Lorenzo
Anybody who engages Arturo Lorenzo and Israel Nocelo in a conversation will quickly notice that they are huge on respect, especially with regards to revering their Mexican heritage. Feeling they could delight denizens of and visitors to West Passyunk with dishes from their homeland, the Puebla products opened La Mula Terca, 2053 S. Beechwood St., Aug. 1 and have since reveled in valuing their commitment to quality options.
“I want to treat people the way that they deserve to be treated,” Lorenzo said from his three-week-old space. “That happens, in this line of work, only when there is a full investment in thinking outside the box.”
The Vineland resident and Nocelo used their friendship as inspiration for the venture, a welcoming 30-seat spot that sits right across the street from Cafe y Chocolate, which the former oversees with his girlfriend, Maricela Téllez. With emphasis on Latin street food and a few platters, their brainchild has worked to counter what Nocelo sees as other locations’ penchant for offering unadventurous choices.
“I think a little more thought and consideration go into what we do here,” the chef, a resident of 13th Street and Oregon Avenue, said. “I feel we admire the process and the whole scope of what this sort of cooking can produce for our customers.”
The Lower Moyamensing dweller and his peer do not mind being headstrong about their business model (Their venue’s name translates as “the stubborn mule,” after all) and enjoy answering calls for variety, particularly through their small plates. Their establishment marks the creation of continued distance between Lorenzo and his former vocation as a landscaper and strengthens the connection that Nocelo has to the food and drink industry, most notably through his mixologist role for the Zavino-Tredici restaurant group.
“This is an interesting neighborhood to have such a site because tastes are evolving,” Lorenzo said, acknowledging how fortunate he and Téllez have been in peddling south-of-the-border treats. “So far, this has been a wonderful chance for us to expand our involvement with this line of work.”
The Garden State inhabitant, who doubles as the general manager, yearns to hold La Mula Terca’s grand opening celebration soon. As he and his hired hand develop their identity, he expects to make menu alterations, with Nocelo noting that they hope to peddle brunch at the dinner-only destination by the end of September. No matter their ultimate makeup, they can already count a great alliance with the West Passyunk Neighbors Association as a plus and have received a plethora of plaudits from guests, especially for their Mixiote entree.
“They almost cry from the joy that comes through the marriage of all the flavors,” Nocelo stated of the $20 braised lamb shoulder meal that comes with corn and homemade tortillas and that meshes with a sauce consisting of chiles, garlic, pepper, and cinnamon to be a carnivore’s playground. “It’s very special to me because it goes back to my childhood. Even if that connection didn’t exist, I would still be proud of it because it’s a very filling selection. You try this, and you will see how dedicated we are to respecting the ingredients and the overall product. If you make it yourself, I think you’ll feel the same pride.”
Braised lamb shoulder
Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
Cover the lamb shoulder in the garlic adobo, and cook for three hours. ■
La Mula Terca
Owner: Arturo Lorenzo
Opened: Aug. 1, 2016
2053 S. Beechwood St.
Photos by Tina Garceau