One woman’s desire to share her cultural heritage is at the center of a unique Clintonville business. Leticia Vazquez-Smith gave Azteca Catering a permanent home at 3339 N. High St. to bring traditional Mexican food and folk art to Columbus.
Exploring the Mexican cuisine in the city, Vazquez-Smith found many of the restaurants to be more Tex-Mex rather than the traditional food she grew up eating in Mexico City.
“I wanted to show that we have more than Tex-Mex,” she says, speaking to the truly wide variety of cuisines found throughout the country.
So four yeas ago, Vazquez-Smith started Azteca Catering to bring the traditional cuisine of Central Mexico to Central Ohio.
“It started with a passion and love for my culture and heritage,” she says.
Azteca Catering serves authentic Mexican favorites at luncheons, dinners, afternoon and evening receptions, picnics, weddings, and parties, just to name a few. Vazquez-Smith also sees success catering events at OSU and attending festivals. With catering success, an actual brick-and-mortar location wasn’t originally in the plans.
However, “At festivals, people were asking, ‘Do you have a location?’,” Vazquez-Smith says. The idea was intriguing, and something she really thought she should consider, but she knew she didn’t want to open a large, traditional restaurant. Instead she decided to model the location around the traditional fondas of Mexico City.
“At a fonda you go everyday and they have a daily special and also food that is like food you would eat at home,” she says.
The eats at the Azteca Catering cafe center around a small menu of authentic favorites from Central Mexico including, atole (a corn-based beverage), cafe de olla (Mexican coffee), tamales, cactus salad, guacamole and pico de gallo. Vazquez-Smith rotates in other dishes like soups, tostadas, quesadillas and papas con chorizo.
All of the food is made from scratch and gluten-free expect for the quesadillas. Veggies, chicken and fish are primarily featured in the region’s dishes making for a healthier menu. Vazquez-Smith also has plans for seasonal dishes utilizing local farmers market finds.
However, food is only half of the Azteca Catering space. Vazquez-Smith uses the location to promote Mexican culture through art.
The Mexican folk art gift shop features handcrafted pieces from 10 Mexican artisans. Vazquez-Smith seeks artists who may not be fair-trade certified but are small, independent crafters creating special pieces. Through the partnership, many of the artisans are also able to provide work to others.
The crafts aren’t just made in Mexico, but also feature culturally prominent themes like day of the dead, Frida Kahlo and luchadores. Shoppers can find paper mache statues and figures, hand-painted wooden figurines, jewelry, bags and t-shirts among other artisan items.
Vazquez-Smith chose Clintonville as the location for the shop because of the niche customer it provides – the kind of customer that appreciates the authentic nature of the business. She sees people in the area being conscious about food, cultural, well-traveled and generally laid back. Many of the people that come to the store know what the cultural icons represent without explanation.
Vazquez-Smith says Azteca Catering sees great and continued support from the community.
For more information, visit aztecacatering.com.