.Los Pinos Updates Traditional Mexican Dishes

The downtown Santa Cruz spot’s reimagined recipes elevate classics

Originally born in Michoacan, Mexico, Javier Corona came to the U.S. at age 17. He settled in Watsonville and began working in taquerias, getting into prep work and cooking. From there, he became a manager at a local restaurant, and that’s when a tortilla vendor tipped him off that the Mexican restaurant Los Pinos was for sale. He went to Santa Cruz for the first time, checked the place out, and was able to borrow money from friends and family to buy the place. That was 25 years ago, and Corona says the key to his success has been hard work and never losing belief in himself. Los Pinos’ Mexican cuisine is a blend of traditional recipes combined with his and wife’s twists on the classics, perhaps best exemplified by their famous mole, rich and dark with notes of chocolate and developed spice. They are also known for their soups, such as their chicken soup and a seafood stew known as Siete Mares.

Corona spoke to GT about his journey and his menu.

What inspired your life’s path?

JAVIER CORONA: The thing that pushed me was not having much growing up, just working for my dad on a farm. But I knew I wanted more, and that’s why I came to the U.S. I worked hard and saved money. I feel very blessed to now have what I have: a restaurant, a wife and family and being able to own property in Mexico. And I was also able to bring much of my family here, too.

What is Siete Mares?

It’s something so delicious and so good. It’s basically a seafood soup that has catfish, octopus, clams, mussels and shrimp, and is topped with carrots and celery. The base is a seafood broth, and we serve salsa on the side so guests can have it as spicy as they want. People really love it and often come back just for it, especially on cold days. I learned to make it at my previous job, but then adapted the recipe to my own tastes.

Los Pinos, 2019 N. Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-425-2554; lospinossantacruz.com.

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