Three years ago, Mario Guerra came up with the idea to marry the two loves of his life — food and motorcycles — in a restaurant. But unlike the speedy vehicles of his passion, Moto Deli has taken a long time to arrive at its destination.
From concept to opening took 18 months of hard work, Guerra said, because neighbors of the small patio restaurant opposed any new construction. Then it took another year to get a beer and wine license that allowed the addition of dinner service in November.
Now Moto Deli is everything Guerra dreamed of, a motorcycle-themed sandwich shop with a surprisingly gourmet menu.
Chef Andrew Halvorsen, whose resume includes a stint at the locally legendary farm-to-table restaurant A.R. Valentien, makes virtually everything in-house. He and his team smoke the meats, bake the breads and cookies, pickle the vegetables and make all of the seasonings, sauces, condiments, dressings and jams from scratch.
While sandwiches like the top-selling Turketta (made with smoked turkey, avocado, bacon and apricot mostarda) make up the bulk of the menu, there are now dinner- and happy hour-themed items with a gourmet twist. A few are the house-smoked trout rillette and house-made chicken liver paté.
Guerra was born in Mexico City and moved to the U.S. with his family in 1996. He grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. He worked for several years in the women’s apparel manufacturing business and at a local investment firm. He and his wife, Morgan Warman, live in Rancho Santa Fe.
His very first job, at age 16, was working as a restaurant bus boy. He took the job to pay off his first speeding ticket, but working in the kitchen awakened a love of the culinary trade.
“I’ve always been interested in food and I like to cook a lot myself,” he said. “It was always in the back of my mind that I would open my own restaurant some day.”
He found the perfect location in 2015: the former Sub Palace restaurant on North Coast Highway 101 near Europa Street. Because it was a former sandwich shop, he thought opening a similar restaurant would be quick and easy. He was wrong.
Neighbors opposed any new construction in the area and what he expected would take six to nine months stretched to 18. Moto Deli finally opened for lunch service in fall 2016.
The restaurant’s design is inspired by Guerra’s love for motorcycles. He owns six: “I have one for each need — travel, racing, off-road, vintage, work and commuting.”
To prepare for the addition of a liquor license and dinner service, Guerra recently expanded the restaurant’s seating with a covered patio that opened in November. He said he’s been pleased with how customers have been responding to the new patio and food items.
“I’m really happy with the design and the menu and the comments we’ve been getting from customers,” he said. “Hospitality is something I enjoy. I love making people happy.”
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays.
Where: 810 N. Coast Highway 101, Leucadia.
Phone: (760) 943-6686