When John Gabaldon was sitting on his grandfather’s back porch in New Mexico as a kid, he was not thinking about one day owning a restaurant. He and his grandpa, Eustaquio Gabaldon, would take a break and put those chiles on a buttered fresh tortilla.
“I grew up on that back porch, spent hours and hours peeling chiles,” he said. “It takes a lot of work, but it’s where the strong New Mexico influence comes from.”
Those influences have been found at La Ristra New Mexican Kitchen since June 2013 featuring chiles like those he spent so much time peeling. He has brought them along with generational family recipes.
The large menu features the red and green chiles. Your first taste of them comes when the warm chips and salsa are served. The menu has evolved over the past five years; a brunch was created, and a returning customer base is keeping the spacious locale filled on a Sunday at 2 p.m.
Gabaldon found his way into the restaurant business after graduating from Northern Arizona University, where his capstone for his master’s degree was a restaurant.
“I didn’t have a model to follow,” Gabaldon said. “There is always a learning curve. You make mistakes and learn from them.
“It’s about the final product. My mind and eyes are geared for what I want. I see things and know if there’s something wrong immediately.”
It has led to a menu that features the green chile mac and cheese to start and brought home with signature dishes, such as the adovada short ribs and blue corn stacked enchiladas, which is topped with a fried egg.
“From the day I opened, I knew we weren’t going to be a home run hitter from the start,” said Gabaldon, whose wife, Andrea, is also involved in the venture. “We’re not in downtown Gilbert, so we weren’t going to have people flooding in. We had to build our business.
“My aspirations are to keep growing the business. I have a great staff, and we’ve made a nice home for them. I’d be lying if I didn’t say a second location is an option. There’s definitely room for growth and improvement.”
La Ristra New Mexican Kitchen
638 E. Warner Road, Gilbert
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.