Damian Zuniga has worked in restaurants since he was 15 — many of them owned by the Diaz family, successful Sonoma County restaurateurs who own Agave, El Gallo Negro, El Faralito and a bottled mole company, among their many entrepreneurial ventures.
Now 32, with three food businesses to his name, Zuniga is hoping to replicate the success of the Diazes with a food empire of his own. He’s part of a new generation of local immigrants who are launching off the shoulders of those who came before them, the immigrant business owners who gave them a start.
“I want to be like them,” said Zuniga, who hails from Guanajuato, Mexico.
Part of that dream of success includes the serious efforts of his extended family, who work in his two Lucha Sabina food trucks and a new restaurant, Pezcow in Windsor.
With Pezcow, the former location of Tu Mole Madre (owned by brothers Octavio and Pedro Diaz) has been transformed into a bustling commissary kitchen for Zuniga’s mobile kitchens and an impressive restaurant featuring brilliantly executed dishes that make use of the wood-fired oven and the culinary skills of Zuniga’s brother, Luis Zuniga.
The name, Pezcow, Luis explained through a translator, means hillside and sea. It plays off the flavors of local seafood and from local ranches, but with a Latin bent. The whimsical logo — a mermaid-cow blowing a conch — is a visual cue to what Zuniga calls surf-and-turf, or “fresh catch.”
Whatever the exact meaning, there is plenty to explore on the menu, from a ruby-red glass of Campechana ($18) filled with octopus and shrimp ceviche in a quaffable lime-orange tomato juice to Pollo al Horno Con Mole ($22) with a homemade mole negro I’d put up against any other (including the Diaz brothers’ — sorry, not sorry).
The well-appointed dining room, mostly left from Tu Mole Madre, is comfortable with long wooden tables, large hammered-bronze light fixtures that cast a warm yellow glow and an open kitchen with handmade tiles from Oaxaca. (Tu Mole Madre had been sporadically open and closed before the pandemic, but closed in 2020.) Don’t be put off by the strip-mall location. Nearby are Castaneda’s (a Latin grocer with many tasty imported products) and, across the parking lot, El Gallo Negro (for great margaritas).
Prices for entrees at Pezcow range from $20 to $45 for a whole fried fish and other seafood (enough for at least four people). Pizzas and appetizers are $8 to $19.
Overall: These are well-crafted dishes that elevate the flavors of Mexico well beyond simple taqueria fare. The seafood is outstanding, but don’t ignore the chicken mole and other land-based entrees.
Queso Fundido, $12: This dish is best right out of the wood-fired oven, with bubbling melted quesillo cheese and homemade chorizo. It’s truly the chorizo you’ll die for, made with freshly ground pork and a mix of warm adobo spices known only to Chef Luis. It will make a chorizo-lover out of you, because you’ll be hard-pressed to find any better.
Pollo Al Horno Con Mole, $22: A large half-chicken cooked in the wood-fired oven, then slathered with mole negro. It’s hard to capture the magic of mole, but this version has a gentle sweetness, warm baking spices and smoky chiles that meld so harmoniously you’ll be humming a happy tune while you lick the plate.
Molcajete Mariscos, $25: First things first — A molcajete (the volcanic stone bowl and the name of the dish inside it) should never, and I mean never, be anything less than sizzling hot. That’s part of the magic of this stew of shrimp, clams, scallops, octopus and crab legs (with nopales and fried cheese). I look at it as a distant cousin of fondue, mostly because it’s best shared with friends as they dip forks and spoons into the deep bowl and don’t get too worked up if someone sticks their fingers in to fish out a rogue scallop or two.
Campechana, $18: A glass chalice fit for royalty holds piles of octopus and shrimp ceviche swimming in citrus and tomato juices. Chiles add a savory, earthy quality, but little heat. Required.
Pizza Al Pastor, $18: Spit-grilled al pastor is legit (and frankly I’d be glad to eat it plain), tossed over a wood-fired pizza crust and laden with cheese, pineapple, onion and salsa de aguacate. It’s kind of like a Hawaiian pizza, but so darn much better.
Beer and wine are available, along with agua fresca.
8465 Old Redwood Highway, Windsor, open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. 707-393, 8370. bit.ly/31k9I9X.