After working more than 25 years in the food service industry, chef Hugo Benitez finally realized his dream of running his own restaurant four years ago when he opened Hugo’s Italian Grill & Pizzeria in Spring.
A native of El Salvador, Benitez said he spent years working in other restaurants in the area and learning from other chefs. Over time he slowly honed his culinary skills before deciding to focus on Italian cuisine.
“I always had the idea to open up my own business,” Benitez said. “That was always the ultimate goal for me, but it took me a long time to finally make the time and make up my mind to finally do it.”
Hugo’s offers extensive lunch and dinner menus showcasing traditional Italian fare, such as lasagna, eggplant Parmesan and other pasta dishes. The restaurant also offers soups, seafood dishes and pizza.
The chef said he had to overcome his own doubts about whether the business would be successful when he decided to open the eatery. However, the restaurant has enjoyed steady business since opening in 2011.
“We don’t always get the lunch crowd because a lot of business
people are down on [FM] 2920, but we are pretty steady during dinner time and on the weekend,” he said.
Every dish served at Hugo’s is homemade and prepared fresh.
“I think Italian [cuisine] has a lot of variety,” Benitez said. “There is variety in meats and fish.”
Owning his own restaurant has given Benitez the opportunity to practice his craft. The chef said he enjoys preparing off-menu dishes on occasions or if customers request something special.
Benitez said he and assistant Patricia Rojas, whom he has worked with for the past 15 years, discovered there is no great secret to repeat customers beyond providing great customer service and excellent food.
Although Benitez said it has taken years to master his craft, his passion for food has always been a driving force in his life.
“I always wanted to be in the kitchen ever since I can remember,” he said. “Sometimes you just can’t describe the feeling of discovering new flavors and combinations. It makes you feel like you don’t have any limits.”