Get `em while they’re hot: Pico Rivera restaurant cooks up homemade tortillas for all to eat, and see

Tortilla-maker Elvira Torres makes home-made flour and corn torillas for customers at the Zapien's Salsa Grill on Sept. 23, 2010. Zapien's Salsa Grill adds homemade tortillas to its menu, where customers can see tortillas being made live on Friday evenings, and all day Saturdays and Sundays.

By  | | San Gabriel Valley Tribune


PICO RIVERA – One of the city’s most popular Mexican restaurants, Zapien’s Salsa Grill & Taqueria, is adding a new item to its menu: handmade flour tortillas.

The past year, patrons to Salsa Grill, 6702 Rosemead Blvd., have devoured the handmade corn tortillas.

Now, in response to customer requests, owner and chef Marco Zapien has given them what they want.

The authentic Mexican restaurant, which has been named twice the “Best Mexican Restaurant in Los Angeles” in a local viewer-voting contest, offers handmade corn and flour tortillas Friday evenings and all day Saturday and Sunday.

“We have made the corn tortillas the past year in the kitchen,” Zapien said. “But we wanted the consumers to experience the cooking process, so we have moved it out to the dining area for the weekend.”

Tortillas are prepared on the restaurant floor Friday evenings and all day Saturday for customers to see.

The preparation moves to the kitchen on Sundays when space is needed to accommodate the rush of customers coming in for brunch and dinner.

Two trained tortilla makers prepare the masa (tortilla dough) following the Salsa Grill’s family recipe.

Elvira Torres and Maria Ambriz, both of Pico Rivera, then roll and press the masa to the perfect size.

Each tortilla is placed on a large comal (hot plate), where the tortilla is warmed to perfection and is ready to serve.

“I love the happy faces of the people as I make the tortillas,” Torres said. “They really look forward to eating them.”

Having the tortillas cooked in the restaurant began as part of Salsa Grill’s Carnitas Feast Weekends – an all-you-can eat special offered on from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The special includes tender carnitas, fresh salsa, beans and handmade corn tortillas for $12 per person.

“It’s been very popular,” Zapien said. “People love making their own tacos.”

“I love how the fresh tortillas taste,” said Charity Galindo, of Huntington Beach. “My mom and I ate some last night, and the tortillas and carnitas together are great.”

For information visit or call 562-942-7072.

562-698-0955, ext. 3029

Pico Rivera restaurant back on top of voters’ menu


PICO RIVERA – After falling from the top spot last year, Zapien’s Salsa Grill and Taqueria, 6702 Rosemead Blvd., is again No. 1 in the appetites of Los Angeles area diners.

The family owned restaurant was named the “Best Mexican Restaurant in Los Angeles” in a viewer-voting contest called MyFox L.A.’s Hot List featured on the local Fox Network affiliate KTTV (Channel 11).

“I guess our patrons voted more often this year,” said restaurant chef and co-owner Marco Zapien, 43.

The contest rates hundreds of businesses in different categories.

Winners receive spots on television and can use the honor on advertisements and business cards.

Zapien’s, which won the award in 2007, finished in second place last year.

“It’s great to be named No. 1 again,” said Zapien, whose business partner in the 15-year-old restaurant is his father, Jess, 70.

“It’s quite something to be named the best Mexican restaurant, especially considering how many there are in the Los Angeles area,” he said.

Marco Zapien, who was born and raised in Pico Rivera, was inspired to become a professional chef by watching his dad, mom and grandmother cook when he was a child.

“Those were the best dishes,” he said.

After graduating from the Los Angeles Culinary Institute, Zapien has been head chef at Edison International Field, home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Dodger Stadium, Staples Center and other sports and entertainment venues.

He likes serving fresh creative dishes in the city where he grew up and still resides.

“People I grew up with and have known all my life are some of our most loyal customers,” Zapien said.

Assistant restaurant manager Martin Mundo, 25, calls Zapiens’ Salsa Grill a “neighborhood restaurant.”

“Our customers like the comfortable atmosphere and our homemade recipes,” he said. “Everything is fresh daily.”

Tom Neal, 43, of Orange County, said the fresh ingredients in the “great authentic” meals has kept him coming back the past three years.

“The menu has a lot of variety, and you can tell the effort they take in preparing their dishes,” he said. “It’s all delicious.”

(562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029

LA Times


Don’t look for chile verde on the menu at Zapien’s Salsa Grill and Taquería in Pico Rivera. Instead, ask for Dionicio Morales’ Favorite, named for a guest. Morales apparently liked both chile verde and chile colorado, which is beef in red chile sauce, so the special is either one. There’s no need to choose, though. A plate called chiles divorciados has them both. Unlike occasional specials, Dionicio Morales’ Favorite is available every day. Look for it on the menu under “traditional dishes,” then specify red or green.

It’s the chile verde that excels, with its brilliant, fresh tomatillo flavor. The recipe isn’t secret: Chef Marco C. Zapien, who is co-owner of the restaurant with his father, Jess, explains each step in the cooking demos and classes he gives quarterly at the restaurant. The meat is pork butt, which simmers first in chicken broth. Then jalapeños, bell peppers, tomatillos, onion, garlic and cilantro are sautéed and puréed with stock from the meat. The final step is to cook the meat with the vegetables until it’s fork-tender.

“Everything we do in the restaurant is from scratch,” Zapien says. This includes the tortilla chips that come with salsa and a chipotle bean dip. and the handmade corn tortillas that accompany the chile verde, rice and beans. Weekday lunch specials also include a bowl of soup and a drink.

6702 Rosemead Blvd., Pico Rivera. (562) 942-7072,

It’s Hatch Chile Time at The Salsa Grill

Hatch Chile season is here and The Salsa Grill is ready with three events surely to take advantage of the bright green, glossy pepper’s annual availability.

Hatch Chile Festivities at The Salsa Grill
For the seventh year, Chef Marco Zapien is hosting a Hatch Chile interactive cooking demonstration, Hatch Chile roast and Hatch Chile brunch.

Every summer, New Mexican Hatch Chiles are ripe enough to enjoy and Chef MZ is making a late summer celebration out of it.

The cooking demo on Thursday, Aug. 10 from 6 -8 p.m. is where participants will learn how to make items such as roasted Hatch Chile Tortilla Soup, Hatch Chile Enchiladas Suizas and Hatch Chile Verde. The later is a special recipe as Chef MZ’s Chile Verde was just voted the best in Los Angeles by the L.A. Times. Now imagine it with a twist of Hatch Chile.

Recipes for seven different Hatch Chile dishes, including dessert, will be demonstrated and then served for all to enjoy. Class goers will take home recipes and step-by-step directions. The cost is $45 per person, click here to view menu, and here to reserve your spot.

This year’s Hatch cooking demo will give class attendees a taste of what the Hatch Chile roast is all about; Chef MZ will do a live roast at the cooking demo. And what would a cooking demo be without a raffle – the raffle prizes are cases of roasted Hatch Chiles.

The parking lot in front of the restaurant will be filled with roasters and cases of chiles on Saturday, Sept. 9 beginning at 8 a.m. The Salsa Grill has worked closely with Melissa’s Produce to ensure the most flavorful peppers for the roast, cooking demo and brunch. Reserve your cases of Hatch Chiles here.

Chef MZ’s Hatch Chile brunch is also on Saturday, Sept. 9 from 9 a.m.  to 2 p.m., and includes a complete Hatch Chile inspired menu. Each adult brunch includes Champagne and Mimosas.

Chef MZ Part of “Chefs & Champagne” event in NY

Chef Marco Zapien will be one of the acclaimed chefs participating at the 2017 James Beard Chef MZ Part of "Chefs & Champagne" event in NYFoundation’s Chefs & Champagne on Saturday, July 29 at the Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack, New York (Hamptons). 

Chef MZ will be representing Melissa’s World Variety Produce, where he is a long-time consulting chef. Along with Chef, Tom Fraker, he will be sampling Endive Leaf with a heaping scoop of Dungeness crab, topped with Hatch Chile Salsa.

Zapen is one of about 40 chefs, beverage masters and artisanal purveyors featured, along with flowing Champagne and Wolffer Estate wines. 

The Chefs & Champagne main event will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 29, and is open to the public—reservations are $200 for James Beard Foundation members and $275 for non-members. General admission includes all tastings, silent auction bidding opportunities, and a gift bag. VIP premium admission, beginning at 5 p.m., is $375 for James Beard Foundation members and non-members. Reservations can be made by calling (212) 627-2308 or at

Salsa Grill Participates at East LA Meets Napa

Zapien’s Salsa Grill is participating, for the fifth straight year, at East LA Meets Napa Friday, July 28 at Salsa Grill Participates at East LA Meets NapaLA Live.

The event gathers 80 of Los Angeles’ top restaurants and premium vintners, including The Salsa Grill.

Chef Marco Zapien and his team will delight guests with their Posole Tostada – all the elements of posole on a tostada. The dish includes shredded pork, hominy, lime juice, pickled onion, cilantro and radishes served on a crisp tostada shell.

The food and wine festival also features live entertainment, including OZOMATLI and Poncho Sanchez, and a celebrity lounge.

Proceeds from the event help uninsured patients get primary health care. AltaMed is the event organizer.

Click here to purchase tickets. 


Salsa Grill hosts all-day fundraiser for Football for Life

The Salsa Grill is hosting an all-day fundraiser for Football for Life, a non-profit organization that promotes suicide prevention through the game of football, on Saturday, July 8.

Salsa Grill to Host Football for Life Fundraiser

Co-owner and head chef, Marco Zapien is generously allowing the organization to fundraise from open to close, 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.  

This fundraiser coincides with a current GoFundMe campaign organized by Football for Life, which seeks funds to help teens living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. According to Joe Pina, a volunteer at the reservation, 2015 was declared a state of emergency on the reservation due to a rash of teen suicides.

On Pine Ridge, 97% of the population lives far below the U.S. federal poverty line, and the high school dropout rate is 70%. The unemployment rate is upwards of 90% due to the lack of industry, technology or commercial infrastructure on the reservation.  

Football for Life looks to take the life lessons learned on the football field to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

The Football for Life group is comprised of former coaches and players who believe the game of football was instrumental to the success they have achieved in life. The founders and directors of Football for Life know from personal experience the vital impact of youth sports participation. Specifically, participation in football can provide the tools to successfully transition to adulthood.

Salsa Grill patrons and football for Life supporters should mention the fundraiser to their server and a portion of that bill will be donated to the organization on that day. No flyer is required.

Chef MZ is an avid supporter of many non-profits, including sports organizations and schools in the Pico Rivera community, and the support for the reservation in another state shows his overall commitment to helping others.

Click here to view The Salsa Grill’s menu. 

Salsa Grill Makes LA Times Top 5 Chile Verde List

Zapien’s Salsa Grill & Taqueria made the Los Angeles Times’ top 5 list for the best Chile Verde in Los Angeles. The list came out online on Thursday, May 25. Salsa Grill Makes LA's Top 5 Places for Chile Verde

The article noted the different ways The Salsa Grill and Chef MZ serve their tender, braised pork in chile verde, including their most well known dish, Dionico Morales’ Favorite. The dish is available as part of the Traditional Dishes dinner menu – a tribute to a great man and regular – and includes choice of Chile Verde or Chile Colorado, beef in red sauce.

The restaurant also has a Chile Verde Burrito available all day and a lunch special featuring the signature item. “The Mayor” merges another Salsa Grill favorite, red enchiladas, and Chile Verde. It’s named after a local council member. Click here to view The Salsa Grill’s menu. 

All Traditional Dishes are served with fresh, handmade Tortillas. Lunch specials and Traditional Dishes are served with beans and rice.  

Click here to view the full article. 

Get over to the Salsa Grill and enjoy some delicious Chile Verde. 

Salsa Grill Hosts Annual Mother’s Day Essay Contest

This year’s Mother’s Day essay writing contest hosted by The Salsa Grill invites students to share why their mom is the best. Salsa Grill Mother's Day Essay Contest

Beginning now and continuing through Sunday, May 8, The Salsa Grill is asking writers ages 7 through 13 to submit an essay up to 250 words answering the question: “Why is your mom the best?” The younger participants are encouraged to include an illustration with their essay.

The grand prize winner of The Salsa Grill’s 5th-Annual Mother’s Day essay writing contest will receive a Massage Envy gift card to give their mom on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 17.

In addition, The Salsa Grill will provide the winners with a restaurant gift card and special treat bag for mom.

Winners in two age categories – ages 7 through 10 and 11 through 13 – will be announced on Wednesday, May 13, with enough time to coordinate pick up ahead of the holiday.

With its focus on education, the Salsa Grill’s Mother’s Day essay writing contest is a recipe for success. The Salsa Grill partners with local private and public schools all year to involve students in other programs and events, including The El Rancho High School Mentor/Mentee program, where Chef Marco Zapien speaks semi-annually to aspiring chefs.

The goal of the essay contest is to involve the local youth and help them forge a path to success.

Good luck to all the participants! Click here for more info. 

Salsa Grill Hosts Annual Toy Drive

Zapien’s Salsa Grill & Taqueria will be bringing joy to those in need this holiday season.  The restaurant is currently running its sixth annual gift drive. Salsa Grill Hosts Annual Toy Drive

Running through Thursday, Dec. 22, all unwrapped toys donated will be delivered to Saint Hilary Church in Pico Rivera to less fortunate families, with teens and children, just in time for Christmas.

The Salsa Grill is offering adults 50 percent off their meal (per item, per person) and children (12 and under) will eat free with any unwrapped, new toy. A win-win situation.

Chef and owner Marco Zapien works closely with the church by giving his time all year long by donating, providing food, and catering to those in need.  This holiday season is no different as Chef Zapien will provide his own bundle of gifts and toys to donate to be shipped off to the church.

Last year the amount of gifts collected was just shy of 200.  The restaurant is hoping to exceed that this year.

Get into the holiday spirit and donate a gift to a family in need.