By Maria Sonnenberg
For AL DIA TODAY
MELBOURNE — Take a mom who loves to cook, add five siblings eager to share their mother’s most memorable recipes and place them in a cozy restaurant and you have Latin Flavor, the cozy restaurant that Marlene and Nancy Alva, plus brothers Ed, Guillermo and George, launched eight months ago next to the Brevard County Service Complex on Sarno Rd in Melbourne.
It’s easy to miss the cute little restaurant, tucked away behind a couple of professional offices, but it would be a shame to do so, for Latin Flavor is one of those places that could easily become part of your dining out schedule. It is here that matriarch Mercedes’ homegrown recipes reign, and Mercedes’ five children work hard to make sure customers leave happy and wellfed.
The Alvas hail originally from Puerto Rico, but they left La Isla del Encanto years ago because Melbourne seemed, well, a definitely more enchanting place in which to live.
“I found Brevard County beautiful and full of opportunities for my entire family,” said Marlene Alva.
The Alva clan literally grew up in Mercedes’ kitchen, where they learned their grandmother’s recipes, which also figure prominently in Latin Flavor’s menu.
“Mom always emphasized the need to cook from scratch,” she said.
One of Mother Mercedes’ bucket list items included opening her own restaurant. Thanks to her brood, the dream has become reality. The family tapped unto the experience of Brother George, former chef at the Melbourne Beach Radisson, and the two other brothers, also chefs.
Mercedes remains an integral part of the restaurant. Besides creating the flan and the cheese cake, she makes sure her gang follows her recipes. Youngest sister Nancy Alva takes care of the administrative work, while Marlene serves as marketeer for the restaurant. Nieces such as Adriana Hernandez Alva help serve the meals.
Latin Flavor never deviates from its roots.
“We are an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant,” added Alva.
“We always cook fresh and always from scratch.”
On the must-try list when you visit Latin Flavor is the classic Mofongo, made and cooked to order and accompanied with shrimp, carne frita (fried pork chunks), chicharron de pollo or churrasco.
Begin the dinner with the Sampler Platter, which includes homemade empanadas, Alcapurrias, Yuca Frita, ham croquettes, and chicharron de pollo.
To accompany the meal, try Latin Flavor’s house-made sangria with fresh fruit or its wine-based versions of mojitos and margaritas. For dinner, check out the flan Mercedes makes. By the way, a full wheel of delicious flan is available for $42. Your party guests will love you for it.
If you have yet to check out their Latin Flavor, Valentine’s Day could prove the perfect occasion, for the restaurant is featuring a special menu from 4 to 9 p.m. on Sweetheart’s Day. For $39.99, two guests can enjoy salad and their choice of salmon in mustard sauce, churrasco or camarones al ajillo, plus a glass of sangria or wine and bread and dessert. Reservations are recommended. Call 321-604-6800.
Latin Flavor is at 1665 Sarno Rd., Melbourne. The restaurant is open 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.