“Fondita” means “hole in the wall,” and that’s what the building on the corner of Center Avenue in Mamaroneck was — a takeout place named Hole in the Wall.
Now restauranteur/landscaper Val Morano Sagliocco (Lago restaurant, Morano Landscape Garden Design, Ridgeway Garden Center) is adding some spice to that concept. He’s taken over the 400-square-foot space and transformed it into a new takeout eatery, Café La Fondita, set to open later this month. It will feature not just tacos and enchiladas but the best of Latin American cuisine.
“As he traveled, he fell in love with the cultures of Mexico and Central and South America and wanted the opportunity to bring them here,” says Lais Colombo, marketing director of
Morano Landscape Garden Design Ltd.
The approach to La Fondita is three-pronged. Inside opposite the gleaming white marble and stainless steel counters is a deep-yellow wall for Sagliocco’s travel photographs. But besides the food and photos, the outside explodes with color as muralist Suzanne Bellehumeur touches up a scene of old Mexico, conjuring Spanish colonial architecture and cactuses, siestas and sombreros, a horse at a trough and a hissing black-and-white cat – all with a Frida Kahlo palette of high grade exterior artist’s paints topped by a marine glaze to protect them from the elements.
“The mural sketch and concept was mine from a drawing I did with a friend,” Sagliocco says. “I then took it to (an artist) who painted the mural, front sunset and side village scene two years ago, based on my ideas, sketches and photos.”
The door features Bellehumeur’s full-length image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico.
“I started out in Manhattan painting furniture, and worked for a time for (designer) Iris Apfel,” says Bellehumeur, a Stamford resident whose business is the appropriately named Bling Walls.
But a commission to do a mural in a Greenwich home proved a turning point.
“Once I did that, I never looked back,” adds Bellehumeur, who’s been painting murals for 28 years.
Mural painting is among the oldest forms of art with antecedents in the cave paintings of the Paleolithic period in what is now Southern France. In modern times, mural painting is often associated with a group of Mexican artists that included Diego Rivera, Kahlo’s husband, but many artists have put their brilliant hands to it, from Leonardo to Banksy.
What they have no doubt discovered is that it offers unique challenges compared to painting on canvas.
The latter is “your own painting, your own concepts,” Bellehumeur says. “(Mural painting) is very much a service industry.”
Another difference lies in scale: Murals are often painted on walls and ceilings. They are not meant to be read closely like a work on canvas but across a crowded room or with your head tilted upward.
Or, in the case of Café La Fondita, as you drive by and take in the colorful site with its gravel parking area, intimate landscaping and outdoor seating and an old telephone booth for selfies.
“When you drive by,” Bellehumeur says, “you can’t help but notice it.”