Restaurant Spotlight: La Boca in Santa Fe, N.M.

Chef James Campbell Caruso takes diners on a contemporary culinary tour of Spain at this Wine Specator Award of Excellence winner 

Restaurant Spotlight: La Boca in Santa Fe, N.M.
Chef James Campbell Caruso used his anthropological training to develop his own "Latino-Mediterranean" style. (Douglas Merriam)

Housed in an adobe building in Santa Fe, N.M., the Wine Specatator Award of Excellence–winning La Boca ties the cuisine of Spain into the culture of the American Southwest.

Opened in 2006, the restaurant is owned by regionally celebrated chef James Campbell Caruso, who grew up enjoying the Italian and Basque cooking of his grandmother and mother. Trained as an anthropologist, Caruso traveled throughout Mexico and Spain, researching and cooking the local fare while tying together traditional and contemporary Hispanic gastronomy in Iberia to that of the Americas.

La Boca brings that culinary journey to life, just a block away from the historic Santa Fe Plaza and the New Mexico Museum of Art. Using largely local ingredients, Caruso reimagines Spanish cuisine for local diners. Seared yellowfin tuna is placed on cooling sweet pea “salmorejo” (a traditional Andalusian soup) and topped with crisped ribbons of serrano ham. Other dishes include short ribs braised in oloroso sherry, pooled over silken mashed potatoes, and classic tapas like boquerones (anchovies), patatas bravas and grilled shrimp sprinkled with chile de árbol.

 A bottle and glass of Gonzalez Byass Del Duque 30 year, presented in front of a plate of olives.
La Boca's wine list has a specific focus on Sherry, with all selections available by the glass, like this Del Duque 30 year from Gonzalez Byass. (Douglas Merriam)

Sherry is present across much of Caruso’s menu, a testament to the impactful time the chef spent in Jerez de la Frontera, the heart of Sherry production. The fortified wine features heavily on the wine list as well, with nearly 30 selections served by the glass, including wines from historic houses like Gonzalez Byass, Lustau and Yuste. It is also used in playful riffs on classic cocktails, like the martini, mojito and, of course, Sherry cobbler. Wine director Jesus D. Rodriquez rounds out the rest of the 90-wine list with bottles from all over Spain, including well-known wineries such as CVNE, Bodegas Juan Gil and R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia.

Alongside its fine dining, La Boca welcomes local musicians to its Taberna stage multiple times a week—including Spanish singer-songwriter Jesus Bas and New Mexico–based composer Nacha Mendez—and also hosts cocktail classes and special themed dinners.

Restaurants dining-out restaurant-awards Spain

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