For over a decade, Miguel Moreno cut his teeth as a chef at several Italian restaurants in the Denver area.
And although his love for cooking was solidified at fine dining restaurants like Osteria Marco and Salt & Grinder in Colorado, another love brought him to Fremont several years ago.
“I was actually out visiting the Fremont lakes and wound up meeting my future wife,” he said.
After falling in love in Fremont, Moreno got married and he and his wife moved back to Denver together. But she didn’t take to the big city life, and so the pair came back to Fremont around four years ago.
Following his move to the area, Moreno found it difficult to find employment as a chef and so worked construction to make the ends meet instead.
“I applied at a few different restaurants in town, but there just wasn’t a lot of opportunities for someone with my experience,” he said.
So after saving up, and going into business with his brother-in-law, he’s back doing what he loves at his new sandwich shop Pepper Grinder at 635 N. Main St. in downtown Fremont.
“I just really love to cook, and to make delicious food people enjoy eating,” he said.
Moreno’s new restaurant features a simple, but eclectic menu with a focus on Italian and deli favorites as well as pupusas.
One unique aspect of the menu, learned from his time as a chef in Denver, is Moreno’s use of homemade mozzarella and ricotta cheese — which are both staples in Italian cuisine.
“I also make my own burrata which is my homemade mozzarella stuffed with ricotta,” he said.
He also makes his own meatballs.
One sandwich that has been popular with customers since the restaurant opened earlier this month isn’t an Italian deli favorite, but shares the same name as the new restaurant.
The Pepper Grinder sandwich features turkey, bacon and guacamole.
“People seem to really love the guacamole,” Moreno laughed.
While Italian favorites make up a large portion of the menu, it also features an eclectic variety of sandwiches, salads and other dishes that can be found at sandwich shops throughout the country.
That includes deli favorites like the reuben, BLT, and a Philly cheesesteak.
He also hopes to potentially add some pasta dishes in the future, but for now is focused on providing a place for customers to come get a quick bite to eat.
Moreno says he’s been pleasantly surprised by the community response so far, going so far to say the restaurant has been too busy at times over his first few weeks of business.
“It’s great to be so busy, but a lot of the time it’s just me and one other person back in the kitchen so we really have to work to make sure people don’t have to wait too long,” he said.
Pepper Grinder is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and more information about the new restaurant can be found on its Facebook page or by calling 402-620-4770.