Finding a restaurant with food that reminded him of home was a difficult feat for Peru native Ronnie Gonzales, owner of Jumping Lomo Peruvian food truck.
So he ended up leaving his career in the dental field behind to launch his own business with his wife, Jessica, serving traditional Peruvian food that Latin American people could find a sense of comfort in.
“I am proud of being the only one around the area,” Gonzales said. “I want to keep getting my name out there, sharing my food and sharing my culture. … I like breaking the stereotype when I go to a new place. Latino food is not just burritos and tacos.”
He said his homemade sauces are what really testify to his menu’s authenticity. The two options are the huancaina sauce, a mild cheese sauce, and the rocoto sauce, which is a spicier version.
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“All of our plates come with our homemade sauce and it just gives it that taste of home. When I give it to a Peruvian, they’re like, ‘OK, it’s complete now,'” Gonzales said.
Gonzales, who was raised in Peru and moved to Miami at age 11, said many are unfamiliar with his native food in Pensacola, even though Peruvian restaurants in Miami were as widespread as a Mexican or Chinese restaurants are in Pensacola.
Because authentic Peruvian food is such a rarity, a compliment he constantly receives is, “thanks for bringing something different,” Gonzales said.
When it comes to the style of food, he said Peruvian food is filled with Chinese influences, due to the large migration of Chinese people to Peru in the 1930s and 1940s. He saw this blend of cultures in cooking first-hand in his family, as his grandmother is Cantonese.
He said his Asian-fusion style replicates a lot of Chinese cooking techniques, such as cooking meat over the open flame, while still being infused with Peruvian flavors and spices.
The Asian influence is evident in Gonzales’ chaufa dish, a Peruvian style fried rice, that comes with green onions, eggs, choice of meat and Peruvian spices. It ranges in price from $12 to $14, depending on the choice of meat.
“When we were choosing the menu items, the fusion of Peruvian Chinese food is so big in Peru. Chaufa is one of those representative plates,” Gonzales said. “It’s like everybody eats it, everybody has it, it’s something that’s internationally known.”
The signature dish and the truck’s namesake, the Jumping Lomo, also is a best-seller. It is comprised of a sautéed sirloin steak, onions, tomatoes, Peruvian yellow peppers and spices, served with white rice and French fries. The dish starts at $12.
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The peppers give the dish a more aromatic or floral taste, rather than spicy, he said. Since all of the dishes are made to order, they can be adjusted in spice level to the customer’s taste.
One dish Gonzales considers to be among the most traditional on the menu is his Peruvian ceviche, which is a blend of fresh fish and seafood cooked in lime juice, cilantro and Peruvian spices. The plate is served with red onions, Peruvian cancha, or fried corn, and sweet potatoes. It starts in price at $12.
Due to Peru’s capital city, Lima, being so close to the coast, ceviche is an everyday, easily accessible dish that Peruvian people grow up eating, he said. He’s tried to replicate the process of getting the seafood as locally as he can, sourcing it from Joe Patti’s Seafood Market in Pensacola.
He said the food truck has also provided him with the opportunity to share about his Peruvian culture, which takes the culinary arts very seriously. Gonzales teased that in Peru, 90% of Peruvians know how to cook, but 100% of Peruvians are food critics.
“It’s hilarious,” he said. “Even my mom was visiting, I let her try my food, and she’s like, ‘Well you can put this in, or you can take this out, or you should start doing it this way’ … but that’s how it is. We Peruvians are like that. I think it’s because we have such a rich variety of food in Peru and we’re so proud of our culinary arts that we’re picky and we’re very selective of what we eat.”
Jumping Lomo rotates through different locations to set up shop around Pensacola, but can be followed on social media for weekly hours and locations. Next on Gonzales’ list of stops will be Gallery Night in downtown Pensacola from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.