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Casa Azul aims for tacos in December, with more to come

Casa Azul, the Mexican restaurant in the former Dog e Style space on Genesee Street, plans to start selling tacos and tortas in early December.

Al pastor tacos, pork marinated in chile with pineapple, will be carved from a vertical spit, and served on housemade corn tortillas, the partners say. But that’s just the first phase for the two-level space at 128 Genesee St. This spring, the second floor will add a menu of large plates and sharing plates, with a cocktail list.

Vincenza “Zina” Lapi is partnering with Mexican chef Victor Parra Gonzalez to open the restaurant. Its name, which translates as “Blue House,” is inspired by the Frida Kahlo museum in Mexico City, and the blue shipping containers used in its exterior.

Lapi, who has previously worked at Mike A’s at the Lafayette and Buffalo Proper, has been running the Blue Balls Bus food truck, an arancini specialist, since April. The food truck is off the road for now, but will return in the spring, she said.

Arancini are fried rice balls, an Italian appetizer typically made with risotto. But on her truck, Lapi pushed the dish past Italian boundaries. Her creations were “ingredient-driven, what was good, what was seasonal,” including a few Mexican-inspired versions. “I think I just enjoy doing all different types of street food,” Lapi said.

At Casa Azul, she’s going to further broaden her culinary horizons in working with Gonzalez, who drew praise for his modern Mexican fine dining at Jaguar at the Bistro in Youngstown, which closed in August. Gonzalez is also working on Las Puertas, the 35-seat innovative Mexican place he’s building at 385 Rhode Island St.

Casa Azul will open without alcohol. When the restaurant gets its liquor license, it will offer drinks created with the help of Tony Rials, one of the city’s best cocktail artists.

Tacos will cost from $2.50 to $5, including carne asada (or steak), chicken, fried fish, and vegetarian tacos like potatoes and poblano chile, and squash with tomatoes.

If all goes well, “we’d like to start serving Dec. 5,” said Lapi.

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