Marco, Jinette, and Edmundo Meraz of Republica Empanada on Family and Mesa
Marco, Jinette and Edmundo Meraz
Lauren Saria Marco, Jinette and Edmundo Meraz of Republica Empanada in Mesa
Owners and chef
This is part one of our interview with the Meraz family, the folks behind Republica Empanada, the Latin American eatery that opened in downtown Mesa in June. Owners Jinette (she's also the chef) and Edmundo join their son Marco, who serves as general manager, to talk about why they chose the midcentury building in downtown Mesa and how much the city has changed during the past four decades. Be sure to come back Tuesday for part two, when Marco tells the story about how Chris Bianco inspired him to open his own restaurant.
Inside downtown Mesa's newly opened Republica Empanada restaurant, a brightly colored 10-by-10-foot mural covers a portion of the long wall with inset windows installed specifically to allow for natural light and a street view. The art is small enough -- and partially hidden behind one of eatery's low, four-person tables -- that on your first visit you might not even notice it. But the 100 square feet of paint might be the most interesting thing in the newly renovated building.
The mural, painted by local artist Lauren Lee, depicts an orange and yellow Arizona sunset behind a pink portrait of the Four Peaks. The view is the one you'd see if you looked east from downtown. It serves as a backdrop for blue rolling waters of the Salt River canals and in the forefront stands an oxcart loaded with agave.
Lauren Saria Lauren Lee's mural at Republica Empanada
The traditional oxcart, or carreta, is Costa Rica's most famous craft. They were used to transport the country's coffee beans to market during the 1800s. In the mural, it is a symbol of Jinette Meraz, Republica Empanada's owner and chef, who was adopted from Costa Rica in 1964. Inside the cart, the agave plants represent her husband, Edmundo, who was born in Mexico and moved to Mesa just two years after his future wife. The couple's five children, all born in the East Valley, are present by way of the Arizona desertscape in the painting.
It's a perfect summation of the family history that runs through the entire restaurant.