“We create, we do not imitate,” Benitto says, smiling. The motto also appears on his web site, and it’s clear from the atmosphere, the menu, and the way he shares handshakes and familiar chatter with his customers that his approach is indeed, unique.
Benitto’s is a “paninoteca” (panini bar) serving classic Mediterranean salads, panini, plus a full breakfast service (8:30am – 1pm), as well as lunch and dinner (1pm – 1am). The bar is fully-stocked with beer, wine and spirits, and there’s a countertop espresso machine for lattes and cappuccinos. Read the full Benitto’s menu in English and Spanish.
Located in Marina Vallarta, across the street from Plaza Neptuno, Benitto’s feels like a little slice of European coffee culture in the middle of Mexico. “We’re trying to create a classy place that’s casual and friendly,” Benitto says. “People can come to eat, to work, to drink coffee, and even if they come alone they’ll feel comfortable. This is a place for regulars, and people often meet just from sharing a table.”
Benitto’s has been open for 13 years (1 year in its current location and 12 years across the street in Plaza Neptuno), powered by the friendliness and enthusiasm of Benitto himself. “There’s a word in Spanish,” he says, leaning forward in his seat. “Anfitrion. It means ‘host’. I love to be the host, to welcome people and see them smiling and enjoying themselves.”
Although it’s an excellent coffee house and restaurant, Benitto’s also provides the setting for other kinds of socializing. With three large TVs, it’s the perfect place to watch an important sports match, or other special event. “Just this week, we showed the royal wedding,” Benitto chuckles. “Whatever you want to see – just ask.”
A series of weekly evening events round out the schedule. Wednesday is Noche de Princesas (Night of Princesses, also known as Ladies Night), with martinis and a DJ playing house music. On Thursdays, guests can enjoy live music - Cuban and rock covers on alternating weeks - at Jueves de L’amigo (Friendly Thursdays). Viernes coquetos (Flirty Fridays) have live Latin jazz and funk, and Benitto’s serves fondue and wine. Sabados de variedad (Varied Saturdays) are wide open for many kinds of entertainment. Past performers have included a mime, a DJ, a clown, and a drag show.
Benitto’s is open 8:30am – 2am, Monday through Saturday. No reservations required or taken.
All photographs © Benitto's unless otherwise stated.