The summer is coming to a close, and some of us on the bachelorette/or status of the social spectrum are glad to hang any wedding-related duties on the perch till’ the next season. But we can’t deny that the summer has been a good one when it comes to love, especially considering the supreme court’s ruling granting every person in the nation the right to marry.
But it’s also led to an equally fascinating argument against the most revered tradition in the world. Articles on Slate, Mashable, Huff Post, et al., quoted statistics and professionals that begged the question: Considering the prices of these ceremonies, what could we accomplish if we took these funds and invested them somewhere other than a “once in a lifetime” soiree?
It just so happens that earlier this summer, a sandwich shop opened up in West Kendall that showed us that sacrificing every little girls dream might actually create a more fruitful partnership between two lovers. That’s the story of Mr. and Mrs. Buns.
Vanessa Rivera and Gian Carlo Accinelli met 15 years ago while enrolled at Cordon Bleu in their homeland of Peru. In 2003, they decided to move to Miami to “pursue the American dream,” which as it turns, ended up being working long hours on the kitchen lines of chain restaurants Hillstone and Macaroni and Grill. “It was hard, you know. We were both in the line and prep, it was a lot of hours, we didn’t have holidays and our schedules were often opposite so we never saw each other,” recalled Rivera.
“When you’re a chef, you always dream of having your own business someday” she said, as she tended to customers, wrapping up their lunch orders at the quaint sandwich shop tucked away in a suburban stripmall at Sunset Drive and 157th avenue. “The weird thing is, all this is supposed to be my wedding. We were saving every penny. Do you know how hard it is to have a wedding here?”
Having come from humble families, the couple had been working long hours to save up so they wouldn’t have to burden their parents with their dream wedding. Riviera explained, “I wanted to have it all — the dress, the reception, everything, so we kept saving and one day he [Accinelli] sat me down and said: ‘Okay, this is it, we have the money, what do you want to do?’”
This question came as a shock to Riviera, who had been planning for the day ever since she could remember. But her beloved had a point; they had been working for over a decade and had finally collected enough to break the chain, pun intended. She recalled, “So he told me ‘I’m tired, and we’ve got the money. Are you sure you want to have the wedding? It’s just one day, and that’s it!’ He convinced me to change my mind. We went back and forth on it a lot, but we finally reasoned and decided to open a restaurant.”
However, opening a restaurant proved to be harder than predicted. Before taking on the feat, the couple took a two-month trip back to Peru. Since they were about to become business owners and didn’t know exactly when they’d be able to see their family again, it made sense to spend as much time with them as possible. And just as importantly, they needed to research for their concept. “A lot of people underestimate how ahead of the curve Peru is when it comes to dining.” Riviera noted. “We explored what was hip, and what flavors and ingredients were in the Peruvian foreground. We visited many restaurants, including some of the most popular high-end establishments, and we took lots of pictures. And after many conversations with locals, we decided to go for a sandwich shop, because there weren’t many in the area.”
The concept was decided — a fast casual sandwich shop with Peruvian twists and modern American influences. But the couple wasn’t going to stop there. They went out of their way to make sure that all of the ingredients used in their inventive recipes were up to par with the quality found back home. “We knew we had to sell the butifarra sandwich, because it’s a Peruvian classic that you don’t see a lot here, but the bread was difficult to nail because it’s a French style of bread, and if you over-sauce it, it gets mushy,” she said of the main star of the menu. The couple had experimented with available styles like ciabatta and focaccia, but were not satisfied with the results because “they scrape the paladar.” Yes, we concur with the struggle.
As a dedicated chef, and now business owner, Accinelli took to the kitchen to come up with his own bun recipe. “My house looked like a bakery,” he said. “There was flour everywhere! I was losing hope, but he kept telling me, ‘Relax baby, I got it,’” recalled Riviera, giggling as she showed off the kitchen where Accinelli was working on the day’s dough. “I was freaking out, thinking, All this money we’ve invested and you don’t have the bread?! IT’S THE MAIN INGREDIENT! Finally, one day I came downstairs and he looked at me and said, ‘This is it! Taste it!’”
The buns are a thing of beauty for yeast-loving connoisseurs. Because the recipe helms from experimenting with an array of dough recipes, they’ve endearingly named it cholo — a representation of many gastronomical cultures. It is shaped like a hamburger bun, but with a crackling, bubbly exterior similar to those of freshly baked baguettes, without the overwhelming volume of a ciabatta roll. The interior is spongy like focaccia, which aids in confining the fixins from the half dozen options the menu caters. Besides their beloved butifarra, you can also find pollo chi jau kay made with Asian seasoned fried chicken, asado de palta (eye-round roast) piled high with avocado slices and crispy red onions, and our absolute favorite the panceta — a delightful bite of juicy and crunchy pork belly cooked in Caja China with thin sweet potato chips bookended inside the house bun. Roll up your sleeves for this beauty, folks! It’s bound to drip.
A visit to Mr. & Mrs. Buns makes for an interesting dining experience considering the entire shop is decorated as if straight out of a wedding DIY Pinterest board with Etsy-esque finds — including a huge Mr. and Mrs. black and white photograph that takes most of the wall of the dining room — paying homage to what could have been. We all know we wouldn’t be eating such satisfying comfort grub at any wedding, and the decor only adds to the charm of the enterprise. They’ve already attracted a growing group of devoted fans solely by word of mouth, with a 5 star rating from 118 reviews on Yelp.
And as all good fairy tales end, we leave the lands of West Kendall, where dreams are piling up in the shape of true, brazen tastemakers who have tested the norm of our culinary scene and have gone to where no man (or woman) have dare gone before. Mr. and Mrs. Buns have joined the ranks of Adrianne Calvo’s Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant & Wine Bar, Nedal Ahmad’s Pincho Factory, and Eileen Andrade’s FINKA Table & Tap, proving that when it comes to quality food and good hospitality, if you build it, they will come.
Visit Mr. & Mrs. Buns at 15572 SW 72 St., Miami, 33193.