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2011 - Volume 2 Issue 2
Comidas Sabrosas
Brunch on the Border
Article: Jessica Muncrief
Photos: Jesse Ramirez
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Nestled on the borders of New Mexico, Texas and Mexico, one will find the hidden gem Ardovino's Desert Crossing. The eclectic mix of buildings has a rich history that owners Robert and Marina Ardovino have taken great pride in preserving. The buildings were first opened to the public as Ardovino's Roadside Inn in 1949 by Robert and Marina's great-uncle, Frank Ardovino. Initially, he created a glamorous venue for drinking and gambling. When the New Mexico government began cracking down on gambling in the famed Anapra entertainment corridor, his focus shifted to serving the food he was famous for amongst close friends and family. Operations were closed in 1973 when Frank passed away and the buildings were essentially abandoned for the next 20 years.

    A walk through the facility today will reveal a multitude of hidden treasures. An old stone and tin water tower is draped in climbing vines, a sink has been converted into a planter, and sandboxes are filled with antique toy tractors. Inside, spacious red leather booths and huge, picture windows with sweeping views of Sunland Park and the mountains will make anyone feel like a VIP. Funky shadow boxes showcase vintage items left over from Uncle Frank's gambling days, like a tower of cards and a clock made from dice.

Desert Crossing

1 Ardovino Drive
Sunland Park, NM 88063

Business Hours:
Tu-F:   5:00pm - 10:30pm
Sat:   9:00am - 2:30pm
    5:00pm - 10:30pm
Sun:   10:00am - 2:30pm
Brunch Hours:
Sat:   9:00am-2:30pm
Sun:   10:00am-2:30pm
In 1994, Robert Ardovino returned from Los Angeles to El Paso where he was born and raised. He immediately noticed the potential of the space. The Ardovino's website notes how Robert "rediscovered the beauty of the wooden roof trusses, picture view windows, and tiled floors and began the long renovation process. He painstakingly searched through old storage sheds, rooms, and the basement in search of artifacts and memorabilia to adorn the walls." Marina also returned to her El Paso roots and joined her brother to manage the day-to-day operation of the restaurant.

Marina admits that Robert is the visionary behind the complex. It took a few years for his original vision to come to fruition. He gives great advice in saying, "In everything you do, you should try to start at the right level." For the Ardovinos, this meant having fresh and tasty ingredients on hand to create healthy meals. Much of the produce is grown on site, including several varieties of squash, brussel sprouts, asparagus and herbs. There are also more than 70 chickens on hand to provide farm fresh eggs. Whether from their own garden or another area farmer's, Ardovino's is unique in that many dishes are made from organic locally grown foods and hormone-free meats. Marina notes that natural colors and flavors are key elements of the menu, which she classifies as "continental food with an Italian flair."

The organic, natural concept is especially prominent on the brunch menu, which is served every Saturday and Sunday. Classic brunch items are offered with unique twists that reflect the mingling of Mexican, Southwestern and Italian cultures that makes Ardovino's so special. Pizzas hot from the wood burning oven and fresh salads are available. There are also a variety of specialty omelets, all made with free range eggs, featuring surprising ingredients you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the area, such as Manchego cheese, aged Swiss and black figs. The Banana Bread French Toast is beautifully served with fresh fruits, local pecans and a side of bacon or sausage. However, the extra special treat is the creamy vanilla mascarpone hidden between the slices of delicious homemade banana bread.

Executive Chef Apolo Salazar has also been known to concoct special brunch dishes that are not on the menu. I was fortunate enough to try the amazing "Deconstructed Menudo" which consists of a Mexican bolillo roll layered with tender pork belly and a fried egg. It is served with a side of perfectly seasoned hominy. Zucchini Blossom Crepes and Breakfast Nachos are other enticing options. As if that weren't enough, you can also add half a caramelized grapefruit to your meal, get an extra side of apple wood-smoked bacon, or drizzle your dish in a sweet shot of Agave nectar.

I finished my brunch off with a tart Southwestern inspired treat–the Prickly Pear Mimosa. However, you can also order the traditional Mimosa, a Bloody Mary, Sangria or a Bloody Cerveza. Fresh squeezed orange or grapefruit juices are available, as are espresso and organic, fair-trade coffee.

If you attend brunch on a Saturday between late May and October, you will also get to check out the seasonal Farmer's Market. Marina and Robert are especially proud of this endeavor which promotes sustainable farming and helps stimulate the local economy. Approximately 40 vendors set up shop right in the Ardovino's Desert Crossing parking lot selling everything from fresh tomatoes to live chickens. ///
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