Goodyear has a new dining destination in Caballero Grill, and with it comes an eclectic menu that represents the owners’ favorites — as well as a special dish that pays tribute to a departed friend.
Anthony Guerriero, whose background is in import-export and other businesses, and Paul Fratella, a veteran restaurant manager, are longtime friends who met when they were 12. The two talked even then of someday running their own business, though they went their separate ways for a while and worked in several different jobs, married and started families. They’re 34 now and ready to work together.
“The dream never died,” says Guerriero, who graduated from air-conditioning school and is finishing a degree in business and real estate at Arizona State University.
Fratella, who has managed such franchise restaurants as Buffalo Wild Wings and Baja Fresh, got the notion to open his own place and contacted his old friend last year as Guerriero was about to witness the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. The two had discussed a restaurant concept since 2009, and Fratella announced he had found a location.
Guerriero landed back home July 4 as fireworks exploded across the sky. “It was amazing,” he says. It must have been a good luck sign.
The building Fratella found was the old McGrath’s Fish House, which had recently closed. “It was a beautiful building,” Guerriero says.
The two men gave the restaurant a name that means “knight” or “gentleman” in Spanish and put together a menu that features their favorite American and Mexican cuisine, along with some eclectic specials. As executive chef, they hired Amanda Miller, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale.
On the menu you can find steelhead trout, sesame-crusted ahi tuna, macadamia-crusted chicken, green-chile-pork enchiladas, cheeseburgers and a French dip that rang up 48 orders on opening day Jan. 2.
Notice a special message on the menu for Manny’s Empanadas, dedicated to Manuel DeJesus Cabrera, a friend who died too young. Cabrera’s mother shared her own recipe with her son’s pals. A dollar from every order will go to a memorial scholarship fund.
“We were really close,” Guerriero says. “He would do the same for me.”
After establishing the Goodyear restaurant, Guerriero and Fratella would like to open five more Caballeros in the Valley over the next two years. Guerriero’s real-estate education will serve him well, he believes, in finding the right locations.
Fratella says he has liked the restaurant business from the day he started busing tables at 16. The word “caballero” also refers to a horseman, he says, perhaps fitting because he once worked on a ranch mucking out horse stalls.
So far, he reports, “the feedback has been incredible” for the restaurant. And working with his old friend has been a pleasure.
After 22 years, the two caballeros are enjoying the realization of a dream.
“We’ve taken a shoestring budget and done the impossible,” Fratella says.
Guerriero says, “I’m walking around with a big smile on my face.”
Details: 1800 N. Litchfield Road, Goodyear. 623-935-4287, caballerogrill.com.