It somehow seems fitting that one of Los Cabos' most recent restaurant success stories is located at one of its most historic landmarks: the site of the the first Spanish mission in San José del Cabo. Restaurant Cata Wine opened in 2012 near Playa Hotelera - a 30-minute drive from downtown Cabo San Lucas - and its array of traditional Mexican favorites are a reminder of the country's rich culinary heritage. The restaurant's abundance of gourmet, handmade Italian specialties, meanwhile, provides yet more proof (if any were still needed) that Los Cabos has become one of Mexico's most cosmopolitan resort destinations.
Cata Wine's romantic dining area boasts cushiony banquette-style seating, colorful lights and original paintings from local artists — Photo courtesy of Cata Wine
It is rare that a restaurant can succeed with such a diverse menu, but Chef Karina Alarcón's background and skill set have helped to make Cata Wine a popular stop for visiting foodies. The Durango native studied Italian cooking in Reggio Calabria. She also apprenticed for six years with Gianfranco Zappalà, the owner and chef at Capo San Giovanni's Mari e Monti in Cabo San Lucas. Zappalà is famed for the authenticity of his food, and Alarcón learned to make all her pastas, breads and sauces from scratch, in the traditional manner.
The rich and hearty fare at Cata Wine, which ranges from Lasagna Nazionale to Nopal Sierreño (with steak ranchero stuffed into tasty pads of prickly pear cactus), is complemented by the restaurant's colorful and comfortably romantic atmosphere. Banquette-style seating snakes around large urns with burbling fountains - a favorite bathing spot for hummingbirds. The walls are adorned with original paintings from talented local artists.
Flaming coffee service is one of the most memorable features at Cata Wine in San Jose del Cabo — Photo courtesy of Cata Wine
As one might expect from its name, Cata Wine offers a generous selection of wines by the glass or bottle, including some excellent options from Baja California's own Valle de Guadalupe. Perhaps the most popular beverages on tap, however, are the bartender's hand-crafted cocktails, many of which are made from original recipes. The tamarind martini, in particular, is a perfectly balanced blend of sweet and sour, while the creamy, coconut-flavored quaff will appeal to those with a pronounced sweet tooth.
But coffee is certainly the most spectacular of Cata's liquid offerings, in large part due to the wonderful theatricality of the flaming coffee service. Fearless - and one hopes fire retardant - servers heat three separate liquors before setting them afire and then transferring them from one silver bowl to another in long, tracing arcs of blue-orange flames. The sweet and slightly sticky finished product continues to burn until you make a wish and blow on the coffee mug like an oversized birthday candle.