“I just cut and cook” says Renzo Garibaldi. He may be understating things. Garibaldi opened Osso Carniceria y Salumeria in a suburb of Lima in 2013 and, driven by demand from chefs like Gaston Acurio, the butcher shop quickly morphed into a secret backroom meatery where cutlery, let alone napkins, was optional. Quickly, and inevitably, it became a full-fledged restaurant (with cutlery and napkins). Along the way Osso gathered acclaim; it’s currently #34 on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants List (2015) and revolutionized the protein intake of Limeños.
“We’re in a country that doesn’t really eat meat,” Garibaldi observes of his ceviche-loving countrymen. “When we first opened Osso no one knew what to expect, so it was easy to surprise. Now they understand what we’re doing.”
This fall Garibaldi intends to surprise them again.
Dondoh, set to open in October, is a partnership with chef Ciro Watanabe whose flagship Osaka Nikkei style restaurant in the W Hotel in Santiago, Chile is #25 on 2015 list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants List. The Peruvian born chef moved to Chile in 2009 and is a judge on Top Chef Chile.
Dondoh, which gets its name from a Japanese word that means “ceremony of fire” (Diego de la Puente came up with the name), will not be a Nikkei restaurant. Instead, the focus is on robatayaki or robata cooking, which is a Northern Japanese style of fire-grilled meats. Some call it Japanese barbecue. Garibaldi, who will source all of the meat and cook at Dondoh a few days a week, calls it cooking with “live fire”. The menu will feature all wagyu beef plus pork and seafood using all parts of the animals and, according to Garibaldi, “infusing flavor into fat”.
In November, a second Osso will open in the San Isidro neighborhood of Lima. While Garibaldi says he’d never close the original Osso in the La Molina district of the city, he acknowledges that the 45 minute to 1.5 hour drive from central Lima (depending on traffic) discourages a lot of people from making a reservation. The San Isidro location is designed to make it easier for more locals to try Osso and to attract the city’s many food tourists as well. Garibaldi will be the executive chef and, at press time, was still searching for chef de cuisine for the 90 seat restaurant.
To coincide with the opening of the second Osso, Garibaldi plans to make major changes to the Osso menus. Primarily, he wants smaller dishes featuring meats with more distinct flavors – not just a cavalcade of slabs of high quality meat that, he fears, can begin to taste similar. Garibladi told me that he’d like to get back to the original tasting menu that evolved when people began showing up to eat at his secret back room table . He adds that some dishes on the current menu will stay including the cutlery-free steak tartare. He knows it won’t be for everybody and he can tell the difference a mile away. “Most clients have money and they’re used to doing things their way,” Renzo says.” “There are ones who get into it and eat with their guard down and ones who don’t get it and will not enjoy it.”
Renzo is also eyeing some projects in Brazil and says there’s been interest in opening Osso in South Beach Miami and Bogota, Colombia. He’s also thinking about a cookbook. As if that’s not enough, he and his wife have a newborn baby. So why can’t Garibaldi just sit down and relax?
“You get really tired when you’re sitting down,” he says. “And I always want a new speech to give.”