El Tiempo Cantina’s Executive Chef Domenic Laurenzo’s family has been in food service for more than 40 years. His grandmother, Ninfa Laurenzo, was the founder and namesake of the famous Ninfa’s restaurant.
“My grandmother grew up in Harlingen. She met my grandfather, Italian-born Domenic Thomas Laurenzo, while visiting Providence, RI. They literally flipped a coin to decide if they would live in Texas or Rhode Island.” And with luck on Mama Ninfa’s side, the Laurenzo family would begin their legendary journey. In 1959, the couple opened the Rio Grande Tortilla Factory in Houston’s Second Ward.
But this love story is marred in tragedy. In 1969, Domenic’s grandfather died suddenly. “My grandmother had five children she needed to support. In 1973, she converted the tortilla factory to a five-table restaurant…the place that today is known as the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation.” By their third year, sheer word of mouth made Ninfa’s a popular downtown spot. Mama Ninfa’s concept continued to grow throughout the eighties, the era when “Tex Mex” was born. In fact, Mama Ninfa is credited for introducing the word “fajita” into American culinary lexicon!
El Tiempo Cantina found its way to Houston in 1998 when Mama Ninfa’s oldest grandson Domenic and her son Roland opened the original location on Richmond. (By this time, the Laurenzo family was no longer involved in the Ninfa’s enterprise.) Domenic says, “We credit the name, El Tiempo, to my cousin Antonio Martinez from Monterrey. My Dad was visiting Mexico, securing items for our new restaurant’s atmosphere. In an amazing act of God, Antonio said we should call it El Tiempo. It means ‘The Time.’ And time is of the essence…the frame of reference for every human being. At El Tiempo, portraits of my family members, including my grandmother, line the walls in a tribute to our history and culture. We invite you to our home to truly pass the time…reminisce about the past, enjoy the present, plan your future.”
When you walk through the doors of El Tiempo’s Stafford location, you’re immediately taken to a “time” of relaxation and great food—all made from scratch with the best ingredients available. “Eating is one of the joys of life,” says Domenic. “There’s no way we would do that half-heartedly.” And from the Mixed Grill—a bit of everything cooked on a wood burning mesquite grill—to the famous El Tiempo margarita, Domenic has created delicious combinations that area Tex Mex lovers can’t get enough of. “We’re constantly working on the food, coming up with new and innovative ideas that we know you’ll love!”
Ready to pass the time with family and friends while enjoying authentic Tex Mex straight from the lineage of Mama Ninfa? Drop in to El Tiempo Cantina. It’s the best Tex Mex dining experience you’ll ever have!
El Tiempo Cantina – Stafford
12710 Southwest Fwy, Stafford, Texas 77477