Starting an artisanal tortilla company in Boston — or anywhere in New England — is a bold choice. But a pair of cousins in the 1980s decided to take the gamble in the name of improving the city’s Mexican cuisine.
Founded in Jamaica Plain, Maria and Ricardo’s has been cooking organic + all natural tortillas for almost 40 years. The cousins established the company upon their move from Mexico to America to fix what they called the “Boston Tortilla Problem” — a lack of quality tortillas without preservatives. Today, their tortillas are a key ingredient in family dinners across the country.
While Maria and Ricardo’s is no longer located in JP, the company maintains its Massachusetts roots with a factory in Canton. The tortilleria now operates under a parent company, Harbar Foods, LLC.
We spoke with Ezequiel “Cheque” Montemayor, CEO of Harbar Foods, about the past and present of Maria and Ricardo’s + his favorite tortilla toppings.
Why did Maria and Ricardo pick Boston specifically when they moved to America?
Maria and Ricardo chose Boston based on academic and professional aspirations.
What did they like about the city?
Maria and Ricardo were inspired by the foodie culture in Boston and their tortilla nostalgia to set up the tortilleria in Jamaica Plain.
What makes Boston a good place to run a tortilleria? What aspects of this city have been challenging?
Boston is a good place to innovate with food and healthy trends. The Boston population is creative, health-conscious, and demanding of high quality. This makes it a perfect place for our brand, which has innovation and health at the core of its DNA.
The challenging part is both the inbound and outbound logistics. Food manufacturers that seek to grow beyond Boston experience high costs to access key inputs (i.e. raw materials) and to distribute the baked products to other big markets outside of Boston.
How are you celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, personally and as a company?
Personally: Always with food at home and sharing family and friends. Having heritage from Mexico and Argentina, there is always a reason and way to celebrate and share good moments with food.
At the company: It varies from year to year. We always have food and celebrate our heritage and diversity throughout the year. This year in particular, we are re-launching our brand’s look and feel, which celebrates the rich Mexican heritage that has always been at the heart of our brand.. From the vibrant colors found in Mexican dishes, authentic clothing, and festivals to the natural colors of Mexico’s architecture and land, our product line embraces all of these. Our new packaging is bold and bright with a touch of modernity and a hint of heritage.
What makes a good tortilla, to you?
Soft texture, clean aroma, and taste, and it should be able to roll and hold your favorite ingredients.
What’s your go-to taco filling?
Queso and guac on a typical day. Almost anything you can imagine when I get inspired.