For Josh Montalvo, cooking is a family tradition. Inspired by his grandmother, he has always loved to cook. It was at home where he learned some of his most prized recipes and dishes as a child. As he grew older, he continued to take a piece of Colombia with him with his cooking and spirit.
Josh also met his wife, Laura Montalvo, through a matter related to family. When he was a real estate agent, Josh helped Laura invest in a home for her mom. They went their separate ways at the time, but fate couldn’t keep them apart for too long. Now, they are married with three children. In 2013, a friend approached Josh about purchasing a space in Morris Park that had been on the market, he did not hesitate. He purchased the space and there La Masa was born.
Keeping tradition, Josh wanted to bring something to the Bronx that was not heavily exposed, a piece of Colombian culture. Laura realizing how important this dream was to him, decided to resign from teaching to fully commit to opening the restaurant. For eight months, the two of them put all of their energy into the restaurant, keeping it closed on Sundays to continue their Family Days. They handled the meal prep, the service, and all managerial duties.
La Masa, literally meaning "the dough," has been opened for a little over a year now. Everything on the menu is of homemade recipes and are prepared fresh each day.
I had to try it out for myself. As a first timer, I opted for the Maduro Relleno (with a little practice, my pronunciation is now down pact!). The Maduro Relleno is a whole sweet plantain sliced in half and topped with meat and cheese. It was seasoned to perfection and my choice of the shredded beef was marinated just the right way. Not to over exaggerate, but it felt like a piece of heaven in my mouth. The idea of mixing a sweet dish with cheese was very foreign to me, but I realized it was a norm in Colombian culture — and I was happy to be exposed to it.
One of their more popular dishes are, of course, the empanadas. With over twenty flavors, you can get an empanada with everything from the norm (chicken and beef) to the unusual (cream cheese and jelly). Laura brought out an array of flavors for us to try and sample, including their cheeseburger option. My personal favorite was the guava and cheese, another very popular dish in Colombian culture, where two unique tastes are combined.
A cozy and refined spot, with natural lighting and minimal decor, La Masa comfortably seats as many as 12 - 15 people. Josh has hopes of expanding the restaurant into something more of a franchise. "I want La Masa’s all over, just like there are McDonalds everywhere," he says energetically.
With the love and support from his wife and family, anything is possible.
Coda's Corner - 4.2 out of 5 for service, food, and minimal (but bright and catchy) decor.
(Disclaimer - I do hope the restaurant can expand to seat more people in the near future, but overall great atmosphere and awesome food!)
La Masa is located at 1000 Morris Park Avenue.
To view their full menu and find further information, please visit their website: www.lamasa.us