Diegos restaurant: A hidden gem in Grass Valley

TUCKED AWAY IN A LEAFY GREEN neighborhood of Victorian-style houses in Grass Valley, Diegos restaurant is a hidden gem. It takes you on a journey to South America with fresh, delicious food, eclectic decor and a shaded patio with colorful plants.

“A really interesting, tasty little place that I go to whenever I visit Grass Valley,” as one diner puts it. “Funky deliciousness,” adds another. It’s a locals’ favorite too.

We have traveled to Chile and Argentina and can vouch for Diegos’ authenticity: Empanadas filled with savory goodies, grilled meats served with Chimichurri sauce, fresh fish, and a “lomito” sandwich of roasted, shredded pork topped with guacamole and tomato.

The dinner-sized “Ensalata Diego” is a favorite: organic mixed greens, grilled veggies, marinated red onions, fresh green beans, green olives, tomato, guacamole and a hard-boiled egg. It’s topped with your choice of chicken, steak, pork, tofu or barbecued veggies.

Diegos’ fresh-blended lemonade and homemade sangria, served in a large goblet with plenty of fresh fruit, is refreshing on a hot summer day.

Diegos’ recipes are made from scratch. The restaurant uses fresh fruits and veggies from local farms, along with wild-caught fish and free-range meats.

The burger is one of the best around: “1/2 lb. of Jim Gates’ grassfed and naturally-raised local beef. Simply grilled and served with fresh romaine, tomato, onion.”

Diegos epitomizes the family owned eatery that defines the best of foothills’ cuisine. Its co-owners are June Atkinson Henriquez and her mom, Diane Robison. Diane’s son, Tony Puzo, is the manager.

The restaurant is inspired by June’s experience in Chile, where she became immersed in the local cuisine. “I loved eating all the fresh food,” she says.

She grew up in Nevada County, moved to Chile to become a professional snowboarder and married a Chilean man. The couple has a son, Diego, and the restaurant is named after him. “Our restaurant is a blending of cultures,” says Tony.

The artistic talent of Diegos’ friends and family is noticeable throughout the restaurant. Diegos’ signature mosaic tile sign is the handiwork of a beloved waiter, John Salcedo. The decor includes mosaic-tile tables and hand-painted murals. June’s horticulture expertise is visible on the lush patio.

(Photo: Tony Puzo)

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