Luis Alberto ‘Tito’ Eguino
30 Jun, 2020 | Bx Team
Photo by: Iván Rodríguez
La Paz’s culinary scene has experienced a mouth-watering boom in recent years. Its ever growing prestige has earned its spot at the top, the gourmet food on offer now rivalling that of the Latin American gastronomy capitals of Lima and Buenos Aires. Restaurants like Gustu, Popular, and Ali Pacha continue to receive international praise as they champion local ingredients whilst creating gourmet, affordable high class dining for food lovers. This has certainly helped to break the stigma attached to Bolivia’s food, which is often touted as uninteresting compared to its culinary neighbours. Bolivian food is filling, comforting and full of versatility, something that chef Luis Alberto ‘Tito’ Eguino showcases in his restaurant Margarita. Located in Calacoto, La Paz, it provides a simpler, yet satisfying, alternative to the big names of his friendly competitors, adding to an already impressive and ever growing repertoire of fine dining in La Paz.
Eguino was born in Bolivia but he grew up in various countries. ‘I think this is why I have an affinity with different tastes in relation to food and varied flavours,’ he says. He spoke to his friend and now business partner Jorge (Mealla) and the idea for Margarita was planted. ‘He told me how it could be feasible. At that time he said, ‘there are no proposals for a restaurant with the characteristics of Margarita. My decision was immediate and in under a month I sorted my commitments abroad and returned to Bolivia. It took us just under a year to build from the ground up.’
Since its opening in 2014, Margarita has offered a large and varied menu to its patrons. It’s menu is an ode to fusion, consisting of piqueos, pasta, and steak, all cooked with Bolivian ingredients. It blurs the lines of conventional foreign cuisine with a blend of flavours from across the globe. Combining rustic burgers with the famous Argentinian/Uruguayan sauce, chimichurri, and the smokey provolone cheese typically used in Italian cooking, these flavours are accompanied by the sacred Bolivian papas. This simple and delectable twist on a well established classic typifies Eguino’s worldwide exposure.
Margarita is a place without fuss, where one can find comfort and a sense of community. For Eguino, ‘Food is the basis of society.’ Eguino wanted to create a place where people could connect and enjoy each other. ‘I think that one of the greatest riches of Bolivia is its people. We have created a place where you can feel the familiarity and affections of our team and our clients.’ Margarita proves that it is not only a confluence of cuisines but also foodies across La Paz, a testimony to its popularity and quality.
With the current pandemic in mind the future is uncertain. It is hard to look ahead but Eguino is positive about Bolivia’s culinary future and is convinced that what we have seen so far is only the start. ‘It is actually the beginning of a stage. We have to make the change. Our vision in the immediate future is to act responsibly and form positive results in the long-term.’ Progress is halted and it is difficult to see past the current situation at hand, as Equino puts it: ‘It has affected the public conscience.’ Despite being clouded by pandemic, he refuses to drop his focus and his goals are clear. ‘We cannot depend on exaggerated and unnecessary supply lines. This pandemic will pass and the lessons learned will be seen in the future.’