Written by The Business Journal Staff
Senor Aji Peruvian Bistro, located in the Herndon Place Shopping Center on Herndon and Milburn avenues, held its grand opening and ribbon cutting Wednesday, welcoming members of the Downtown Business Hub’s Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation.
Owners Mauricio and Lilian Arizola were both born and raised in Peru and have dreamed of opening their own Peruvian restaurant for a lifetime. Right now is the perfect time to introduce the Valley to Peruvian, Lilian Arizola said, because Peruvian dishes are gaining popularity worldwide.
“Peruvian cuisine is all over the place now,” she said. “Every September in Lima, the capital of Peru, they have a big food festival where the best chefs in all of Peru go and people from all over the world travel there. It is a huge attraction and we want to let people know about it here and try Peruvian food without having to travel to Peru.”
Senor Aji features dishes like Lomo Saltado, tender pieces of sirloin sautéed with onions and tomatoes in Peruvian-style soy sauce and served with rice and fries, and Aji de Pollo, shredded chicken and steamed potatoes in a creamy sauce made from Peruvian yellow peppers.
Mauricio Arizola is the chef in the kitchen. Although he works as a petroleum engineer, he grew up learning to prepare Peruvian cuisine, as his family owns a popular restaurant in northern Peru. Lilian Arizola’s background is in hospitality. She earned a degree in hotel management while still in Peru and after moving to Fresno in 2007, worked for several local hotels and resorts including China Peak, Ramada and Table Mountain.
The couple began cooking for friends and soon launched a Peruvian food delivery service. Their food became so popular that soon, Lilian said, they could not keep up with the orders. It was then that they decided to open their own restaurant.
Starting a restaurant is an expensive undertaking, so the Arizolas enlisted the help of the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation. Through FAHF’s programs and services, they received $80,000 in capital to help them get started. In total, the Arizola’s have invested more than $150,000 into their business and have created six new jobs.
“The foundation helped us get the loan and made our dream come true,” Lilian said.
FAHF CEO Dora Westerlund said helping small and new businesses like Senor Aji is the mission of the foundation. Since 2004, the FAHF has been providing technical assistance to small businesses, including facilitating access to capital through the Microloan program.
“It is always great to help diverse cultures within the Hispanic community attain their dreams and witness their hard work and dedication to succeed and become self-sufficient,” Westerlund said.
Senor Aji Peruvian Bistro is located at 6701 N. Milburn Ave., Ste. 130. Its hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Senor Aji is closed on Mondays. For more information, visit senorajifresno.com.