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Add Some Spice to Your Life

Latin-Inspired Cuisine, Craft Cocktails and a Welcoming Atmosphere

Growing up, Rebecca Illingworth Penichot had a mother who worked in the restaurant industry and a father who was a restaurant architect. Later, she put herself through college waiting tables. “Once you're in hospitality, you end up getting hooked on it,” she says. 

It’s no wonder that she eventually decided to open her own restaurants. Her second one, Tinto Kitchen, is located in Minneapolis and offers authentic Latin-inspired cuisine, including hand-made tortillas made fresh daily.

Today, it’s a real family affair. Her husband, Thierry Penichot, is the executive chef, and her son helps in the restaurant when he’s home from college. “It’s so nice to have the family working together,” says Rebecca. “My husband doesn't brag about himself, but he’s a very talented chef. He really elevated my recipes to a level that I didn't even know was possible.” 

Thierry was an executive chef for Hilton World Properties for almost 20 years and has worked in the finest kitchens all over the world including Germany and Dubai. “It’s in my blood,” says Thierry. “I grew up cooking, traveling and meeting people, and food for me was interesting and challenging. I like to use the skills I’ve learned and be creative.” 

Rebecca is originally from Mexico City and didn't come to the United States until she was eight years old. “I still have family in Mexico and my palate is something that will always be in me,” she says. “I can't imagine a life without spice.” She has collected many recipes from her family and her travels. 

Tinto Kitchen, which opened in 2015, has been voted best Mexican restaurant in the area not just for its food, but for its cocktails as well, especially the margaritas. “What makes them so special is we use fresh ingredients such as fresh lime juice, which makes a big difference,” says Rebecca. “We're a fresh kitchen and that translates all the way through to our craft cocktails.” 

While the food that’s served is important to any restaurant’s long-time success, she believes it's the culture that matters a lot too. “I'm a strong believer that a good leader realizes that the success of a restaurant is not just one person, but a team of people,” she says. “We are very fortunate to have a team that has been with us for almost a decade that are helping us create a culture that is friendly and welcoming. Customers often come in to see our staff, which really makes us happy. My family isn't just my husband and my son - it's the entire staff.”

She adds, “We've put our heart and soul into this restaurant, and we wouldn’t have succeeded without our amazing team, or of course, our community. They are a part of our team as well.”

Consistency, Rebecca feels, is another crucial aspect of any successful business. “My husband uses his background and talent to train his staff to prepare food exactly as he does, so whether he's there or not, the food is consistent and that’s just such a big key to a successful restaurant.”

Cinco de Mayo falls on a Friday this year, and the restaurant plans to celebrate all weekend long. “We're going to have a DJ, some live music, and special menu items,” she says. “On Saturday and Sunday, we’ll have a Cinco De Mayo brunch.”

The restaurant is popular with people, and their pets. “We have a very dog-friendly patio, and I feel like it’s become a landmark on 50th and Penn,” says Rebecca. “It's really become a great dog spot because people come off the lake and then come over and have a margarita or join us for lunch or brunch.” Last summer, the restaurant offered puppy beer (aka chicken bone broth) and that was a hit, both with the dogs and their owners. 

“They deserve treats too,” she says. “Thierry and I rescue dogs and have two that are 7 years old. Both of them came from incredibly sad backgrounds and we enjoy being able to provide a loving home where they can regain trust. They just want to be loved.” 

The restaurant business is hard, but Rebecca was raised to meet the challenge.  “My mother, Matilde, who goes by Mattie, was a single Mexican mom and seeing her work from night to day every day to support me certainly influenced my work ethic and values. As I tell my son, don't expect people to give you anything. You have to work for it, and if you do, you’ll one day be rewarded.”

Rebecca was also a single mom for 10 years when she ventured into the restaurant industry. “I was happy to be able to teach my son some of those same values and then I was blessed to have Thierry come into our lives and complete it,” she says. After living in Minneapolis for many years, she and her family moved to St. Louis Park, where she graduated from high school. Her mother still lives there. 

“I’m proud to be a member of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Latin community, which is very strong,” says Rebecca.

4959 Penn Ave S | | (612) 354-2130

  • Rebecca Illingworth and Thierry Penichot.