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Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen opens in Regent Square, creating links to Africa

Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen wants to serve great food, mixed with a little history and culture. The restaurant opened last week in Regent Square, featuring dishes from throughout Latin America and a special emphasis on African-influenced items.

Owner James Wallace says Alma seeks to emphasize and pay homage to those contributions made by Africans in Latin cuisines and cultures.

"The plantain dishes, or these rice and bean dishes, they go all the way back to West Africa," Wallace says. Not every dish will have an overt African influence, he says, but the restaurant will embrace that link which these many different countries share.

The menu includes Colombian arepas, Puerto Rican braised oxtail, and Argentinean grilled skirt steak topped with chimichurri, among dishes from Peru, Cuba, Chile, and elsewhere. Wallace says Alma is also highlighting vegetarian dishes.

"Even though the cultures might be more of an animal based diet, the vegetarian stuff that's there is just phenomenal," Wallace says.

Chef Martin Lamarche is rooted in the Pan-Latin experience himself. Son of a Dominican father, and a Guatemalan mother, he spent several years of his youth in Guatemala City, and many summers in the Dominican Republic.

Lamarche has worked in kitchens throughout the country, including The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia and Restaurant Terra in Nappa Valley.

Alma is Wallace's second restaurant in Pittsburgh. In 2004, Wallace opened the city's first Ethiopian restaurant, Abay, in East Liberty. As with Abay, Wallace says he has opened Alma in part to contribute to the growth of a diverse cultural scene in Pittsburgh.

In July, Wallace plans to open a smaller cantina adjacent to Alma. The cantina will feature Latin American mixed drinks like mojitos and caipirinha, beers from throughout the region, and local brews on tap.

Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen, 7600 and 7606 Forbes Ave, Regent Square, 412-727-6320

Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: James Wallace
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