By Alexandra Shimalla
The first time Chef Mimmo Alboumeh walked the vacant space on 1820 Peachtree Road, it was already his. Not only was the area laid out perfectly, but the square-footage also held his lucky number, seven.
“When I walked into this place, I felt magic,” he says. “It’s 5,002 square feet, and five and two equal seven, so I said I was getting this space no matter what.”
His passion and determination paid off, as that address now houses his new restaurant Botica, which opened in January. Although opening during a pandemic wasn’t ideal, Mimmo, who has had a hand in opening several other restaurants, welcomed the challenge.
“We’ve been blessed,” he says when asked about the community’s response. “People will literally stop me and thank me for opening. It gives you that [sense of] encouragement—like I’ve done the right thing.” By his estimate, Botica has entertained around 3,000 customers a week. “Also, I have a great team,” he adds, crediting his team of 70 employees whom he considers family, a group of which has been with him for over 14 years. “I call them my A-team.”
What does botica mean? The word has roots in many cultures, much like Mimmo himself, who was born in Lebanon but spent much of his childhood in Italy and Spain. Sharing origins with the French “boutique” and Spanish “bodega,” botica loosely translates to drugstore or general store, where you can find a little bit of everything.
“It’s kind of like a combination that allows me to put two or three cultures together,” Mimmo explains. “I can combine the Spanish and Mexican [cultures] without being like the more traditional [restaurant] names. And I like the sound of it—it’s sexy.”
The food at Botica is also a winning combination. Inspired by street-tacos from his trips to Mexico, Mimmo works his magic to meld them together with the flavors of Spanish cuisine. Think combinations like Spanish meatballs with salsa marinara and braised lamb tacos with garbanzo beans.
A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Mimmo took six months to create the menu. “When you are very passionate about things, you never settle for ‘it’s good,’” he explains. And you can taste that passion in the ingredients Mimmo uses, from the locally sourced, seasonal vegetables to the high-quality meats that are smoked in-house on the Big Green Egg.
But delicious food is only part of what makes up Botica; the rest is atmosphere.
“These cultures want to give you a part of what they do, which is to share their love and passion with you,” he says, explaining that dining in other cultures, including Lebanese culture, goes beyond serving food; it’s about creating a shared experience. “That’s the most important thing and the same vibe I wanted to create.”
Having called Atlanta home for over 25 years, Mimmo believes wholeheartedly in supporting the communities he serves. He regularly hosts charitable events and participates in signature fundraising events around Atlanta. He is also actively involved with Frank Ski Kids Foundation, T.J. Martell Foundation, Second Helpings Atlanta, The Giving Kitchen and many others.
“Spain is known for having the best octopus in the world,” Chef Mimmo explains. So naturally, he had to include it in Botica’s menu line-up. First boiled in a brine of wild herbs, spices and Spanish sherry, the octopus is then chargrilled to perfection before being sliced up thin and served over a fresh batch of patatas bravas (Spanish potatoes).
The appetizer has been a hit with customers, but the dish can be difficult to create for the inexperienced chef. Good thing Mimmo is an expert. “It’s a challenge. An extreme challenge,” he admits. “The difference between [cooking] a five-pound and seven-pound octopus is only three minutes.”
Botica, eatbotica.com, 1820 Peachtree Rd. NW., Atlanta, (404) 228-6358.
The content of this article is brought to you by Botica.