El Leoncito Viera prepares for elaborate fiesta


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Stephanie Kelly is the manager and Michael Sanchez is the owner of the new El Leoncito in Viera.

Viera Voice Courtesy of Michelle Whittaker

 

On Valentine’s Day of this year, Michael Sanchez gave himself the gift of a restaurant. The third restaurant in Sanchez’s current portfolio of eateries, the new El Leoncito in Viera was not an easy feat to accomplish.

“We started working on it three years ago,” Sanchez said.

The stand-alone restaurant features a menu similar to its sister restaurant of the same name in Titusville. Sanchez also owns El Chaparral Mexican Grill in Cocoa.

Sanchez’s father, Miguel, and his mother, Bertha, started the first El Leoncito in Whittier, Calif.

“They later opened a restaurant in La Habra and Brea, Calif. before coming to Titusville,” said Sanchez, who started his restaurant career as a 12-year-old busboy at his parent’s Golden State restaurant.

His father migrated from Havana, Cuba at age 17, just ahead of the Castro regime.

“He later joined the Army and fought in the Bay of Pigs invasion to liberate Cuba,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez’s mother is from Texas and of Mexican heritage, which explains the easy blend of Cuban and Mexican dishes that can be seen in the restaurant’s menu. Mexican favorites such as Chile Verde ($10.95) exist in harmony with Cuban staples that include Ropa Vieja, also $10.95.

The Sanchez family moved to Titusville in 1992 and the North Brevard restaurant continues strong. Sanchez saw an opportunity in the rapidly developing Viera-area market and decided El Leoncito needed a baby sister there. He hasn’t had much time to sleep lately, but he is delighted with the welcome his latest restaurant has received.

With 215 seats, the new El Leoncito is not much smaller than the 225-seat original in Titusville. By the way, for the Spanish-challenged, El Leoncito means “little lion.”

To celebrate the opening of his third restaurant, Sanchez is planning an all-out party for Cinco de Mayo. Festivities begin at noon and run until 11 p.m., with live bands, including mariachi and salsa, an outside taco bar, a mechanical bull just waiting to be conquered, giveaways and children’s activities. A disc jockey will fill in with music when the bands are ataking a break. Sanchez is at press time busy concocting margaritas to showcase at the party. He expects the celebration will spill out into the parking area of the shopping center, so grab the sombrero and get ready for the fiesta. 

For more information, call 321-349-3494 or go to elleoncito.com.