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Mexican, Italian, American on one menu

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Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 10:00 pm

Roberto Rojas' Lodi restaurant is an interesting combination of the various cuisines he's learned in the various stages of life: Mexican, Italian and American.

Rojas grew up in Mexico and then lived in New York, where he learned Italian the art of the Italian cuisine and also learned what he says is the food Americans like, such as steaks and salads (no, American food is not just hot dogs and ICEES).

Opened for almost a month, Rojas Classics on Cherokee Lane, is on its way to becoming his dream restaurant. Right now, he features authentic fresh Mexican dishes, but by the end of the month, Rojas plans to add Italian and American dishes, including a variety of pastas and steaks with Portobello mushrooms. He expects his restaurant will become a destination for those wanting high quality dishes.

Rojas previously owned the restaurant, Rojas, located on Highway 88. He sold that Mexican restaurant so he could have more room for customers and expand his menu.

Rojas prides himself on the fresh foods he serves.

One of his best-selling and freshest items is the ceviche.

"My ceviche's unbelievable. We use real snow crab and the highest quality seafood that is out there," he said, pointing to No. 16 on the menu.

The focus of his menu is mainly steak and shrimp. Two of his recent specials were shrimp and steak rancheros, which he prepared from scratch in his kitchen. For the steak dish, he started by frying thin strips of lean steak in olive oil, his only oil choice. When cooking the shrimp, he leaves the shell on.

"That allows it to keep it's flavor, he said.

The sauces are similar for each dish, a combination of chopped peppers, vegetables, tomato sauce and Mexican spices.

Both rancheros are flavorful, and Rojas is right, leaving the shell on the shrimp did hold in the flavor. After you wipe your plate dry with flour or corn tortillas, you feel satisfied, but not overly stuffed. Rojas says it's because of the fact that he uses olive oil and not lard, which takes some of the guilt out of eating Mexican food.

Rojas' cuisine is not at all what people like to call Tex-Mex or Fresh Mex. It is definitely authentic and perfect for both a casual lunch or breakfast or a nice dinner out.

His specials menu usually includes some combination of the following: steak or shrimp ranchero ($8), chicken fajitas ($8), beef strips ($8), beef fajitas ($8), carne asada ($10) and breakfast burritos (filled with ham, vegetable, linguisa, chorizo, sausage, steak or bacon; $6).

Other menu items range from omelets to chile relleno and chili verde.

Some of the recipes are family favorites, but mostly, they are his own creations that he's perfected over the years. He works closely with each of his kitchen staff members to ensure they learn to prepare the food just as he does.

Restaurant at a glance

What: Rojas Classics

Where: 480 S. Cherokee Lane.

Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. daily

Information: 367-1756

For a video on Rojas Classics, visit http://www.lodinews.com/lodiliving.

Recipe: Shrimp ceviche

Equal parts clam and tomato juices

Cooked shrimp

Avocado

Fresh tomato

Cilantro (optional)

A pinch of black pepper

Salt

Jalepeno, to taste, de-seeded and diced

Stir all of the ingredients together and place into a nice dish.

Source: Roberto Rojas

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