When you first drive up, you may wonder what would entice a young, newly independent chef to locate his first restaurant here. In a strip shopping center that has passed its heyday, on a street in which most of the houses are still awaiting reclamation, 34-year-old Alfonso Carmona has successfully opened his debut restaurant, Andrea’s.

The cozy, friendly cocina is tucked into a shopping center on the corner of Gaston Avenue and Fitzhugh. Named after the chef/owner’s 11-year- old daughter, Andrea’s offers fresh Italian dishes focusing on seafood and sparked with a little Latin flair. In answer to the question of location, location, location — Carmona shows a shrewd sense of timing.

“I saw that there were no nice restaurants here, and the people need one. I may be the only one here now, but I draw business from Lakewood, White Rock Lake, Baylor and downtown. Even (people in) Highland Park hear about me.”

Carmona, a native of Mexico, immigrated at the tender age of 17 and began his restaurant career with his brother, Manuel ,who was the chef at Mariano’s in Old Town. Trained mostly by Italian chefs, he progressed until he became the chef at Sabino’s in the Knox-Henderson district. After 13 years , he decided to venture out on his own.

The neighbors seem to love it. Patrons greet the chef and the headwaiter, Salvador, with hugs and kisses.  The restaurant brings more than just a freshly prepared menu to the neighborhood. There is live music on Thursday evenings, when drinks (the restaurant serves only beer and wine) are half price.  On the weekends, Mexican specialties are served. The restaurant hosts periodic wine tasting as well.

Carmona says: “This neighborhood is getting better. Soon I will not be the only one here.”

Andrea’s  4816 Gaston Ave. 214-823-3100

Andrea’s Plate

Talapia, or other whitefish, cut into chunks
Mussels (in shell)
Shrimp, peeled and cleaned
Calamari, cut into chunks

For each person, provide eight to 10 ounces of mixed fish.

1 cup white wine
Juice of one-half lemon
Olive oil
One clove garlic, minced
Fresh parsley, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté all fish in olive oil. Combine wine, lemon juice and a little more oil and spices. Add to fish. Simmer until sauce boils slightly, then cook another two to three minutes. Serve with rice or sautéed julienne vegetables.