Epi’s braveness and hospitality left deep impressions on her rising household as they settled in Idaho — significantly two granddaughters who would later open a small Meridian Basque restaurant along with her namesake.
“Her entire life, to me, she sacrificed a lot to be right here,” stated Chris Ansotegui, Epi’s granddaughter and co-founder of the restaurant. “And she or he by no means complained.”
While you walked into Grandma Epi’s home, you have been taken care of, Ansotegui stated.
“There was baked bread and baked cinnamon rolls. All the pieces was from scratch,” she stated. “And there wasn’t a ton, however there was all the time sufficient.”
That is the sensation Ansotegui strives to copy at Epi’s Basque Restaurant, a comfy, 12-table restaurant with Basque artwork and previous images of her household on the partitions. In a single, her father, Domingo, is seen laughing as he performs the tambourine with a pal. The phrases “Ongi Etorri,” or “welcome,” greet every buyer on an indication on the door.
Although she had no expertise operating a restaurant — she had labored in a police forensics lab and at Micron, Inc. — Ansotegui was impressed in her 40s to offer it a shot. One thing gave the impression to be lacking, she stated, when she would exit to eat.
“So many occasions you are feeling such as you get your dinner and you then get your invoice, as a result of you want to transfer so another person can are available in order that they’ll make sufficient cash,” Ansotegui stated. “Once I went to open this, I believed, ‘I would like individuals to come back in, sit, go to about their day or no matter, or have fun one thing and never really feel like, ‘OK, you take your final chew of dinner, and here is your invoice, and we’ll see ya.’”
Reasonably than select a location on the Basque Block in downtown Boise, Ansotegui felt referred to as to a bit of crimson home in downtown Meridian, which was a run-down cafe on the time, she stated.
“I might drive by this home every single day, and I used to be similar to, ‘That jogs my memory of Grandma Epi’s home,’” Ansotegui stated. “And like six months later, after persevering with to take a look at quite a few locations that weren’t proper … this place got here up on the market.”
Ansotegui’s sister invested within the new enterprise along with her, and her brother helped draw up the ground plans. After months of renovations, Epi’s Basque Restaurant opened in January 1999.
“We simply began our 18th yr,” Ansotegui stated. “It is a miracle.”
It is a miracle, she stated, as a result of regardless of how established a restaurant is, if individuals cease coming, it is going to dwindle away.
Epi’s has weathered challenges — comparable to a flurry of recent eating places at The Village and the break up hall street rebuild that diverted visitors off Most important Avenue and onto Meridian Street, Ansotegui stated.
“I by no means underestimate the vulnerability that we now have,” she stated.
That is why she treats every evening and each buyer like a blessing.
“Each one who walks in that door, I am so appreciative,” Ansotegui stated. “It is a reward that they’ve given you to have that chance to serve them.”
Perhaps that is one motive Epi’s prospects maintain coming again, and why new persons are drawn in. Seats might refill rapidly, so the restaurant encourages prospects to make reservations.
“My prayer is that the individuals who select to come back right here get what they need, in no matter manner which means,” Ansotegui stated.
Perhaps which means a quiet night with a bowl of soup that appears like getting a hug, she stated, or possibly it means spending time along with your associate or celebrating with associates.
“They’re simply darling in right here,” Ansotegui stated. “Folks, they use it as someplace not simply to seize a chew to eat, however to have fun. And that is an honor.”
The ambiance would possibly give individuals a style of Grandma Epi’s home, the place cousins, aunts and uncles would collect and share good meals.
There’s a highly effective communion in consuming collectively, Ansotegui stated.
“It is not driving your automotive and shoving a sandwich in your mouth or one thing,” she stated. “However for those who critically take outing of your day to sit down in communion with different individuals and share meals — and share your beliefs or share your experiences or simply share your love.”
The American tempo of life is not all the time conducive to that have, Ansotegui stated, however particular moments over shared meals are one thing we do not wish to lose.
“So long as … we now have locations like this,” she stated, “I do not suppose it will go away.”
A GIFT TO SERVE FOOD
Hospitality is a significant a part of the Basque tradition — one thing handed right down to Ansotegui from her dad and mom and grandparents. It is a reward, she stated, to share meals with individuals.
“While you order your meals, there’s a cook dinner within the kitchen that’s placing the olive oil within the pan and the recent garlic,” she stated. “We, the Basque individuals, use olive oil, garlic, parsley, pimentos, paprika, sea salt, lemons — very, very, quite simple.”
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The restaurant’s cook dinner, Ansotegui’s brother-in-law who can be Basque, has been along with her from the beginning, as have two of the servers.
“They caught it out with me when typically we would have two individuals in right here, when no one knew us,” Ansotegui stated. “We simply all caught it out and tried to determine methods to take care of high quality. I nonetheless, I purchase the very best meals that I can purchase, like the very best meat, the very best rooster, the very best fish, even when I do not make as a lot.”
Within the Basque Nation, a coastal area, fish is a staple. However within the U.S., Basques have discovered to cook dinner extra with lamb, rooster and beef, Ansotegui stated.
Entrees at Epi’s embrace lamb stew (“txilindron” in Basque), roasted garlic rooster (“oilaskoa”), tongue (“mingaina”) served in a pepper tomato sauce, and a handful of seafood dishes, comparable to scorching shrimp (“gambak”) and cod fish (“makailua”). The entree costs vary from about $17 to $33, and every dish is served with soup, salad, bread and a facet.
Ansotegui stated she finds pleasure in sharing this a part of her tradition along with her prospects. She sees different numerous, family-owned eating places popping up across the Treasure Valley that do the identical factor.
By these eating places, you will get a really feel for Italy or Argentina or the Basque area, even for those who by no means get to go to these locations, she stated.
“That is what we attempt to do right here, with that feeling,” she stated.
The driving ardour behind Ansotegui’s work remains to be her grandparents, who confronted horrifying unknowns, labored arduous at a time when cash was scarce and paved the way in which for his or her kids and grandchildren, Ansotegui stated.
“I simply wish to honor Grandma,” she stated, “and all these sacrifices that all of them made.”