Nick Rossicci with partners Maria and Maximo Mozo Photo by Alfred Endeio LLC
Cars crowd North 18th Street bumper to bumper for parking spots, as Richmonders make their way to and from various destinations. But even with all the hustle and bustle of Shockoe Bottom, it's difficult to miss the bright red awning marked with a bull and the word Maximo's along this sidewalk.
Started by husband-and-wife team Maximo and Maria Mozo, along with their close friend Nick Rossicci, Maximo's Spanish and Italian Bistro officially opened June 1.
"We always had in mind that we had to open a restaurant because of the love for food we have — it's a passion," says Maria.
Although she was born in Cuba, Maria says that she has lived in the United States since she was a little girl. Maximo was born in Spain, where he lived and worked in the restaurant business.
"My grandma used to be a great chef in one of the hotels in Madrid," says Maximo, whose sister is also a chef.
Like her husband, Maria adores cooking; they like to bond at home preparing meals for each other even after a busy day of work. The Mozos were living in North Carolina when they first began to dabble with the idea of having their own business. They considered what would be the right place for their project.
They headed to New York to search for locations, but felt unsure about opening their restaurant in the Big Apple or in North Carolina. Then the Mozos and Rossicci passed through Richmond on their way home.
"We had a lot of comments about it being close to D.C. and how people here like fine dining, eating and going out," says Maria.
The feel of Shockoe Bottom had a great influence on them, as did the actual restaurant site they visited (previously home to Touch ov Soul). Maria and Maximo immediately knew that it was the place.
But it needed work. The partners already had envisioned what they wanted and sought to make it come to life with Maximo's take on the layout and Maria's spin on the décor. The transition was completed within three months.
"Things went pretty smoothly," says Maria. "We tried to touch on every little aspect, including where we hired our personnel."
Inside, the restaurant exudes a modern flair combined with elegant, European-style dining. On one side, customers can enjoy tapas and drinks at high-top tables or at the bar. On the other side is the fine dining area. And for those who are more laid-back, Maria's pride and joy, the patio, is located outside behind the main part of the restaurant for more casual dining. Decorated by Maria to have the appearance of a European café, this area includes a fountain and a colorful mural with a view of Venice. Plates that are handmade and hand-decorated also adorn the walls throughout the restaurant. Maria says this type of decoration is from Seville in southwestern Spain.
Rossicci, a chef as well as a partner, knows Northern Italian food well; he focuses on making the Italian dishes on the menu while Maximo handles the Spanish cuisine. Maria says that Maximo's signature dish, paella — a variety of seafood and saffron rice — which is commonly seen in Valencia, Spain, is a customer favorite. However, about 90 percent of the restaurant's guests order from the tapas bar.
"You can get there and eat a full dish, but if you want to share with friends, you can get four or five different tapas and try all the different flavors," says Maximo.
The restaurant's tapas plates include gambas al ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce) and pincho moruno (skewers with pork). Among the 20 to 25 tapas items on the menu, these are some of the most popular, along with the tapas platter served with jamón serrano, chorizo and Manchego cheese.
"When you see customers who are satisfied with what they're eating," Maria says, "it's total satisfaction and you have accomplished your job more than 100 percent."