In good company is a series of interviews undertaken with local small business owners and their employees to help you, the public, learn more about your favourite Launnie businesses, how they came to be and what drives them. They're posted to our social media first, and those posts will always be linked so that you can share them if you'd like to. So settle in & scroll on too hear tales from beyond the counter, and maybe even discover somewhere completely new... Wherever these interviews lead you, we're sure you'll find yourself In good company.
- The Launceston Central team
“It’s been really lovely when we’ve had travellers coming down who say they heard you can get really genuine South American food at this random café in little Launceston. It’s pretty amazing really - the word’s out in that regard.”
Tio Rico may have flown under the radar for many Launceston locals, but those in the know know that what Dylan Guardia says is true: we have our own slice of Venezuela right here.
The Guardia family have operated Tio Rico for 14 years, Jose and Kerri starting with a food van for festivals and events before putting down colourful, South American roots in their café on Paterson Street right next to Royal Park.
For many in Launceston, South American food will be something entirely new. Dylan explains: “The difference is in the base products that make up the food - a lot of it is very corn-based, so we’ve got a surprisingly large gluten-free and coeliac following here because by nature a lot of the menu is gluten-free.
“It’s very flavour rich, dense food with not too many aspects going on - just a few things on the plate, done right. A lot of it is based on street food, maybe even middle-low socio-economic cultures, so to western cultures it may not be as visually appealing as what you’d get in fine dining. But it gets really funny you know, people will come in and they’ll try one of the Friday night specials or something and they’re all like ‘that was so sensational, it was so unique’ and they're now the super regulars who are coming in.”
From a breakfast burrito to a full-blown feast of Venezuelan-style empanadas and asado negro (a slow cooked Venezuelan dish of black beans and beef brisket in rich, black-coloured sauce), there is a whole new world of flavour to explore at Tio Rico.
Not only is much of Latin American food gluten-free, there is also a broad range of vegan dishes and Tio Rico offers a separate vegan menu. Dylan, who is vegan himself, spotted the opportunity to capitalise on this when he returned to Tassie to “help out Dad”, from travelling and living abroad.
“The vegan thing was an accidental aspect to it. I personally get frustrated having to look for tiny little symbols on menus for each thing that I wanted to order and it made it easier just for myself, and other vegans, to create a separate menu - it’s pretty prevalent now these days!”
Tio Rico is truly a family affair - and it’s a love story. Whilst studying in Venezuela, Tasmanian Kerri met Jose and a relationship blossomed. Unfortunately her visa ran out and she had to return home. However, says Dylan: “Funnily enough Dad was backpacking through Germany a couple of years later with his friends - a couple of years later, yeah! - and Mum was working in a bar a block or two away from where Dad was staying.”
Then there’s Dylan’s brother, Liam, in the kitchen. “Liam’s been here for a while, and he’s definitely back of house brains. I think a lot of the regulars come in because of Liam. And without them knowing I’m his brother they’ll say to me: who are you? And where is Liam?”
Dad, Jose, makes the flans, cakes and alfajores (like Monte Carlos but filled with dulce de leche). And Dylan says: “Also the youngest, Lily, she’s over in Canberra for uni, but she’s really good at baking and things, so when she comes over for breaks the sweets fridges are overflowing.”
For a family of travellers, what’s the appeal of running a Mexican-South American café-restaurant in Launceston?
“Launceston’s a great base for travelling,” explains Dylan. “Lots of countries can be quite hectic - coming back to Launceston is so much more chill and everyone who visits comments on how lovely the locals are.
“You don’t really know until you go travelling the disparity between places, that we do really have a lovely location - especially to do with all the fresh produce and things.”
Tio Rico stocks a range of imported specialty South American food products, such as Brazilian cheese bread mix, however, says Dylan: “apart from some very specific items, all the dishes are made with local produce - and perhaps that’s a standout because we’ve got all this great local Tasmanian produce to work with.”
So if you’ve always wanted to travel to South America, or if you've been and have found yourself longing for the flavours of the region, perhaps here’s a little slice you can enjoy right here in Launceston.
Find Tio Rico at 80 Paterson St, Launceston.