El Tiempo on Navigation a First Look and Taste
Domenic (DT) passed away in 1969, and Ninfa continued the operation. In 1973, she opened Ninfa’s Tacos al Carbon, in a tiny café with ten tables in the taco factory. She is generally credited with being the first restaurant in the U.S to serve skirt steaks. They were served in tortillas as Tacos al Carbon, as well as fajitas.
After stewarding the expansion of the Ninfa’s brand from a single restaurant to over 40, the growth was too rapid to be managed and the Ninfa’s went into bankruptcy. Roland was forced out and he and is immediate family formed El Tiempo Cantina. In April of 1998, Roland Laurenzo, with the help of wife Blanca, who oversees all recipes and is in charge of quality control, and his sons, Domenic (now, corporate executive chef), Dante, Rocco, and Joey; his brothers and sister, vendors and many other family members, opened El Tiempo Cantina on Richmond Avenue, between River Oaks and Greenway Plaza.
“It’s fitting that this restaurant is located between the two original tortilla factories that my parents, Domenic Tommy (DT) and Ninfa Laurenzo built when they moved to Houston in 1949,” stated Roland Laurenzo. “Because those years, when daddy and mama were toiling in the tortilla factory making tortillas, taco shells and pizzas, day in and day out, side by side, were the best days of our lives, because of their amazing work ethic, and love they had for all us kids, and for each other. That’s why the East End is truly where our heart resides.”
The El Tiempo Cantina concept and success reflect years of Roland’s growth and work in the family business. Many of the recipes are reflective of his “take” on family tradition, yet all are improved by him, a well as Dominec’s work over the past few years as executive chef. Not all improvements are merely recipe “tweaks”. Many are due to methods of preparation and presentation. An example of this is the unique presentation of fajitas at El Tiempo Cantina on hibachis with mesquite coals to keep the meat sizzling and hot. These hibachis wer envisioned by Roland.