Giovanni Renzo Moretti is a slight man with a quiet smile and an unassuming handshake. He is courteous and soft-spoken. But his food, bold, eye-catching, and fresh, tells a whole other story.
Moretti, born in Callao, Peru, came to the U.S. with his family when he was 12 years old. His dad opened a small market where he would sell Peruvian-style sandwiches and ceviche. Young Moretti spent most of his time there after school, along with his older sister, Gaby.
“I would help them with anything they needed around the store. That’s where I started taking an interest in Peruvian gastronomy,” says Moretti.
But becoming a chef was never on his radar. After graduating from high school, Moretti joined the Navy and served for six years. He began working as a boat mechanic out of Port Everglades. At that point his dad had two markets, one in Pembroke Pines and one in Sunrise. “It was a very family-centered place, very small.”
Moretti is a man of few words. He fidgets slightly on his light-grey chair, staring at the whimsical, hip decor of his restaurant with slight disbelief, still impressed by how good it all looks. It's lunch hour and the restaurant is full of all types.
In the corner sits a crew of young construction workers scooping up enormous mouthfuls of chaufa (Peruvian fried rice loaded up with your choice of meat, seafood, or chicken), lomo saltado (stir-fry with marinated meat and veggies), and aji de gallina, a traditional chicken stew made with bright-yellow cream sauce using aji amarillo peppers and walnuts. Smack in the middle is a lone businessman enjoying a steamy bowl of chupe de camarones, a hearty chowder with potatoes, milk, Peruvian corn, rice, cheese, and shrimp.
The restaurant is called Pikeos 954, coming from the word picadas, a Peruvian equivalent to Spain's tapas. The spot, located at 2768 N. University Dr. in Sunrise, is bright and happy, with ocean hues and a large blackboard wall announcing specials and popular dishes in a playful cursive. Toward the back of the restaurant, under the television locked on Peruvian soccer, are numerous framed articles and awards bestowed on Moretti.
Two older ladies enter Pikeos 954, one in high-heel boots and a tight leopard-print blouse. One of the young, friendly waitresses approaches them.
“Hola! Mucho gusto en verlas otra vez, very nice to see you again." They are regulars, here on a weekly basis, and today they would like breakfast. It is three in the afternoon, but the waitress does not hesitate. “Sure!” she replies, handing them the breakfast menu. “What would you like? The tamal? Chicharrón sandwich? Huachana sausage? Huevitos with that?”
“Si! Huevitos revueltos,” one responds, confirming the scrambled-egg order. “Y todo lo demas!”
And everything else.
Pikeos 954. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Alona Abbady Martinez lives in Plantation, Florida. She writes about food and family on her blog, Culinary Compulsion, and is currently working on her book, My Culinary Compulsion, a global food memoir with recipes. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.