Nadia and Philipe Taricco opened the Mata Chica Beach Resort ten years ago. Coming from the busy world of cinema and fashion in Los Angeles, California, USA, the couple was looking for a more relaxed lifestyle and a better environment to raise their young daughter. After traveling the world for two and a half years, they settled in Belize, building their dream resort in nine months. Their secluded and exquisite creation is a tropical dream, set on a long stretch of pearly white sand. Mata Chica consists of nine private villas and two luxury villas. The resort also hosts the Jade Spa, the Inter Martini Lounge and the Mambo Restaurant. Over the years the Mambo Restaurant has been critically acclaimed and reviewed by many publications, including the prestigious Conde Naste magazine and Fodors.
Nadia, who oversees the cooking, was born and raised in Torreno, Italy. She later lived in France and Spain. Proud of her heritage, Nadia’s Italian blood runs thick with passion. Strongly believing in food and love, she explains that they are the most important things in life. “Food brings people together,” she tells us. Her eyes sparkle with delight as she explains, “Food is more than just a pleasure for the mouth. Before we are people of stature and status we are all common people with common needs. When we sit at a table together, sharing a meal, we are equals. A president, a boat driver, a movie star, a gardener, a famous author can all sit at the same table and the food brings them together, it’s a common bond between all people, it is the table of life.”
When Mambo was first opened, it was Nadia’s dream to offer traditional Italian dishes. As she grew to understand the local culture she married some of these dishes with the exotic flavors of the Caribbean. Using only the freshest ingredients, every measure is taken to create the perfect meal. The pampered food reflects the care and expertise that only a dedicated and passionate chef could prepare. Every detail, down to the exquisite serving dishes, complements the food and atmosphere to perfection. Most of the appetizer recipes are from Nadia’s grandmother, handed down from generations. Other dishes have been created from her more favorite foods and flavors. Most everything that is served is made on the premises, including the fresh baked bread and home made pasta, which Nadia fondly calls “pasta Maria” after the woman who tirelessly makes it daily in the Mambo kitchen.
Nadia emphasized that first impressions are the most important. In words spiced with her lovely Italian accent, she explains “The eyes before the mouth. Before you eat, it is not your tongue that tells you that the food is going to be good, it is the eyes that tell you. The plate must excite and invite you. The colors, the flowers, the decorations, these all create the anticipation; it is the first seasoning to a perfect meal.”
The staff are a key part of Mata Chica’s success. Nadia fondly refers to her waiters Marco and Suzette, and Jose the bar tender, as her three musketeers. She is generous with her praise, claiming that without them she could not keep the place open. Head chefs Reynaldo and Richard are her stars in the kitchen, and staff Gricel, Scott, Emily, William and Myrah are priceless to her. “The staff are like my kids and we are all one big family. They have been carefully trained about food, wine and hospitality. They are taught to pay attention to every detail. I tell them to be observant. I say, ‘look at the lady, look at the eyes, look at how she walks, how she is dressed, then you will know what kind of meal she wants,’” said Nadia.
The atmosphere at Mata Chica is very much in harmony with the surrounding sea and palms. At the same time, it is contemporary and luxurious. The majestic lobby is designed with elegance and style while decorated with contemporary paintings, candelabras, ceramic treasures, exotic hand crafted Belizean art and Central American mahogany furniture. Complete with a thatched grand palapa roof, large antique Guatemalan pillars, and intimate lighting, the seductive trans-world house music throbs and echoes, creating an exotic and dreamy atmosphere, transporting you to a place unlike any other on Earth.
As Ms. Nadia mingles with guests, easily conversing in a variety of languages, it is clear that Mambo is more than a restaurant; it is as vibrant and passionate as Ms. Nadia herself. Nadia and her staff have paid careful attention to every detail, ensuring a dinner experience that will not be soon forgotten.