On any given day in a 14,000 pound, wood-fired oven from Spain, suckling pig roasts for hours at the Bellmónt Spanish Restaurant of Florida.
The savory aroma fills the Coral Gables kitchen with tradition as recipes and methods dating back to 18th century Madrid come alive in the hands of entrepreneur restauranteurs Sergio Catalina Bellmónt and his wife Claudia Romero.
“It was our mission to have traditional cuisine on our menu and to cook in the wood-fired oven we brought over from Spain on a ship,” Bellmónt says. “I built our kitchen, and it took six hours to install that oven. At the time we did this, nobody was cooking such traditional Spanish plates. And it’s been very successful. One of the things we’re known for is our traditional suckling pig. It takes us four or five hours to prepare, and it’s a very special meal our customers order ahead for big holidays and special occasions.”
He adds, “We’ve had customers order it and wait four hours for it to come out of the oven!”
Originally from Madrid, Bellmónt immigrated to the United States several years ago while working for the Nestlé company’s Nespresso coffee division.
He was in the United States for a couple of years when he and his wife decided to throw open the doors to their first family restaurant. With financial backing from two brothers, Bellmónt has carved out a popular niche in a corner of Miami where 47 other restaurants vie for customers.
Q: How did you attract your first customers?
At the beginning, we advertised in different publications, and did a lot of promotion through social media. We used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, mostly. We also joined the local merchant association in the downtown district of Coral Cables. And it wasn’t long before we became known for having one of the finest restaurants in the city.
Q: Besides the wood-grilled suckling pig, what else are you known for?
The meats we carry are top of the line. We have black certified angus beef, which is 100 percent natural and grass fed. The meat is aged over 29 days.
We use two farmers, one in central Florida, the other in Iowa, and we’ve been using them since the beginning. A lot of our customers come to us for our meats, and our particular way we prepare it. Along with our suckling pig, we’re also known for a traditional method of cooking meat on rocks. This is another tradition from Spain, which involves cooking the meat over rocks at the customer’s table. We instruct the customer as to how to remove the meat when it reaches the temperature they prefer, and it makes for an interesting and fun evening.
Q: What was the biggest surprise you encountered as a new restaurant owner?
My biggest surprise was that I learned that food is very important to customers. Many put the overall ambience, decoration, crowd and experience above that of the food. Though they want a nice dinner, they also want an experience.
So, we’ve learned to offer entertainment and special events like flamenco shows.
Q: How did you become so successful?
A lot of patience. There was no room to fail for us. This is a family business and we were determined to make it work. We learned as we went along, and we built the place from scratch. I literally built the kitchen and put in our wood-fired oven, and I put all the recipes together. We’ve been in business four years now, and one of the keys to our success is we show our customers they’re more than patrons, they’re part of our family.
Q: What advice to have for someone just entering the restaurant business?
Patience is number one. And number two, you have to persevere. Those are the key traits you should have, but there are many others. A lot of people when they get into the business might think it’s all about making money, but there’s many other things ahead of the economic aspect of the business.
We took a concept of very traditional Spanish food and made it work in the downtown district of Coral Gables, where there’s 47 different restaurants, and you can park your car and take your pick. When we started this, nobody was doing what we’re doing. Our goal, from the beginning was to engage our customers in what we do, and to involve them by asking for feedback and constructive criticism. We’re very proud of what we do, and we love our customers. — Bellmónt Spanish Restaurant uses Boxerbrand menu covers in its table presentation. Thank you!