Neighborhood Kitchens

Meet Casa Romero Chef Leo Romero

By Margarita Martinez

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Chef Leo Romero with Margarita (Patricia Alvarado/WGBH)

When I met Chef Leo Romero at his Boston restaurant, I learned that he lives in the Fenway and his favorite hobby is gardening.
 

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José Leopoldo Romero Flores was born in San Diego.  His father was a U.S. diplomat, and he was raised mostly in Mexico (Merida, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Tijuana), but he also spent parts of his childhood in Canada, Colombia, and Panama.
 
His parents employed cooks. (His mother was a good cook when she felt like it. His father couldn’t boil an egg). From the age of 10 or 11 Leo was very interested in cooking, and he experimented a lot in the kitchen.
 
Hoping to pursue a career in diplomacy, he attended the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. After a stint in the military, during which he was stationed in Germany, he served in the diplomatic service for several years (stationed in Paris and Beirut).
 
In 1962, while visiting a friend at Harvard, he was offered a fellowship on the spot in the Department of Romance Languages.
 
In 1967, while still working on his PhD (which he never finished), he opened his first restaurant, Casa Mexico, in Harvard Square. He believes that it was the first authentic Mexican restaurant in New England.
 
In 1969 he opened The Potting Shed on the Wheatleigh estate in Stockbridge. He served a combination of all his favorite cuisines—Mediterranean, French, Mexican, Italian, and Russian—but ran it for one short season.
 
He sold Casa Mexico in 1972 and opened Casa Romero. The same year he opened a classic French restaurant, Du Four’s, which was upstairs from Casa Romero.
 
In 1973 he opened Café L’Ananas, a Mediterranean restaurant on Newbury.
 
In 1974 and 1975 he managed Hai Hai on Boylston.
 
In 1975 he opened Hermitage, a restaurant at the old Institute of Contemporary Art on Boylston that served imperial Russian cuisine.
 
In 1980 he sold all his restaurants except Casa Romero and moved to Vermont. He opened The White House, an inn and restaurant in Calais, Vermont, which was slow food, a movement that encourages eating locally-grown food. They grew a lot of their own food, and almost everything else came within a 50-mile radius.
 
In 1990 he sold The White House and came back to Boston to focus on Casa Romero.
 
He taught Spanish at Newton Junior College for 11 years and at Tufts for three years. He still teaches cooking at Boston University.

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Watch Neighborhood Kitchens online to find out more about Casa Romero in Back Bay.

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About Neighborhood Kitchens

Building on a 35-year history of producing Latino and multicultural programming, WGBH’s award winning La Plaza team has a new offering — Neighborhood Kitchens, a series about the exploration of culture through food. Every week the show offers a unique window into immigrant communities in New England.

Saturdays at 4pm on WGBH 2
Fridays at 7:30pm on WGBH 44


About the Author
Margarita Martinez Margarita Martinez
Margarita Martinez grew up in the Bronx, NY and Ossining, NY with a Puerto Rican father and a Franco-American mother. She now calls New England home. Margarita has always had an insatiable appetite for travel and food. She made her first empanada as a teenager visiting Argentina, satisfied her sweet tooth with poffertjes and stroopwafels while studying in Holland, engorged herself on Thai street food for a month in Bangkok, and continues to search for authentic international cuisines in the Northeast. Margarita loves to discover new ingredients, flavors, and cooking approaches that she can bring to her own home kitchen.

On the Go

In each episode, host Margarita Martínez visits a different ethnic restaurant and learns three delicious recipes from the chef. She also explores the restaurant’s neighborhood, discovering hidden gems along the way. Join her as she learns about new ingredients, new cultures, and new neighborhoods. ¡Hasta pronto!

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Margarita's Neighborhood Visits

»Boston: Bristol Lounge
»Boston's South End: Orinoco, Teranga and Oishii
»Boston's Back Bay: Casa Romero
»Boston's North End: Taranta
»Roxbury: Merengue
»Boston's Beacon Hill: Scampo
»All Around Boston: Mei Mei Street Kitchens
»Cambridge: Muqueca, Oleana, and Sandrine's
»
Somerville: Dosa Temple
»Lawrence: Cafe Azteca
»Lowell: Simply Khmer

»Fresh from the Fish Market
»Jamaica Plain: Tres Gatos
»Dorchester: Pho Le and Cafe Polonia
»Medford: Bistro 5
»Portland, ME: Emilitsa
»Newport, RI: Tallulah on Thames
»Pawtucket, RI: Rasoi

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