Any given Sunday in The Great Ranch of Peru between 60 and 80 guinea pigs can be sold, the same with the Pachamanca of three flavors This successful business on Avenida Trapiche in Comas celebrates its 40th anniversary and its owners, Óscar Barrena and Cristina Martínez, tell us the secret of their success and their current menu.
A lot of work, persistence and love for their food could subtly sum up four decades of a restaurant that was born “almost by chance”. This is how Barrena explains it while remembering the first days of El Rancho Grande del Perú, when he was just 31 years old: “Because of problems I had in the north with the landslides caused by El Niño in 1982, I was forced to come to Lima where we got this piece of land. We dedicated ourselves to raising guinea pigs because it was the most practical and easy thing we could do”, says Barrena, from Cajamarca and a zootechnician by profession. His specialty is raising guinea pigs and he knows everything about the production of this highly consumed domestic animal in Peru and that helped them take off in the business.
the good guinea pigs
On a ghostly Trapiche avenue from the 1980s, with farms and cars that only passed by on weekends (an idyllic image that contrasts with contemporary rush hour traffic), the young couple set up a little branch for the sale of guinea pigs and put up a table with a good tablecloth to attract attention: “Always keeping cleanliness”, emphasizes Cristina Martínez. “The curious would pass by and choose their own guinea pig to eat. At first they were just guinea pigs with red potatoes like my mother did in Trujillo, but later the same customers suggested new dishes and we began to prepare other things.”
Thus they began with a more original proposal: broth and noodles with pigeon. Clients used to ask them for chicken broth, traditional in the capital, but they decided to cook something different like the pigeon that was most consumed in Chinese restaurants. To this day, the pigeon broth and pigeon noodles are two of its most beloved dishes by adults and children.
“I put the seasoning for the pigeon noodles, I am a very picky eater,” says Martínez. “But cecina is a dish invented by my husband.” This forceful chopped jerky and accompanied by abundant mote, cancha, yucca and onion sarsa is a dish devised by Barrena, even the jerky itself is smoked by them in the El Rancho Grande del Perú style.
Dishes to share with the family
With the pandemic, guinea pig consumption increased due to its health properties, as well as its guinea pig stew and broth. But its success dates back to the start of the business, both due to the knowledge provided by Barrena and its freshness: “I think that the success of our guinea pig is because we prepare it at the moment, everything is fresh, we don’t have it precooked. We only add salt, naturally. We always serve it with potato ajiaco, others know it as scrambled potatoes, we accompany it with rice, salad or wheat”, affirms Martínez.
The same with its stuffed rocoto, prepared with huayro potatoes and minced meat, its impressive ribs, wood-fired suckling pig, sarsa de patita, rice with duck and, of course, the three-flavored pachamancas. They carry lamb, chicken and pork meat and are prepared underground every day: “Nothing is in the pot”, highlights the married couple. “Each meat is seasoned with its own seasonings accompanied by humitas, corn, huayro and yungay potatoes, purple sweet potato and a piece of cheese.”
A big ranch for everyone
Currently, El Rancho Grande del Perú is not only a great restaurant, it has a reception room for fifteen-year-olds and couples, where they themselves take care of all the organization, and a swimming pool during the summer. They have a team of about 25 people between the kitchen, lounge and events to attend to their public.
The owners are always present, but they learned to delegate responsibilities and now they can enjoy their achievements:
-How does it feel to have such a successful business for 40 years?
Oscar Barrena: It is enormously satisfying to see that we are enjoying the effort we made when we were young. One recommendation is that you have to work when you are young to enjoy when you are old.
-How do you enjoy now?
Oscar Barrena: Traveling inside and outside the country. Another satisfaction is sharing with children, grandchildren and good friends. We have two children and two grandchildren.
-How do you see El Rancho Grande in the future?
Cristina Martínez: I think of my children because they supported me from childhood. Suddenly I have sacrificed them without going out on a Sunday to mass or for a walk, but they are good children, I would like them to manage it and El Rancho continues to grow. One day we will no longer be there, but the children will be, we trust them because this restaurant has allowed us to give them good professions. I have always considered myself an architect mom who has been able to build good children. We consider ourselves successful husbands. This business has given us great satisfaction and the workers are like one more child, we are a family and a good team.
- Location: Av. Heroes del Alto Cenepa Lt. 39 (Ex. Av. Trapiche). Search with the name in Google Maps
- Hours: Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. m.
- Ask for the house wine
I, Ronald Payne, am a journalist and author who dedicated his life to telling the stories that need to be said. I have over 7 years of experience as a reporter and editor, covering everything from politics to business to crime.