On a recent rainy Saturday afternoon, the doors are open at Maisonetta, where it anchors the corner at 141 Lincoln Avenue, near East 134th Street in Mott Haven. The family-run Mexican French restaurant opened in 2020, peak pandemic, where it served meals throughout for longtime residents as well as new ones who reside in the sprouting residential developments of the neighborhood.
Owner Victor Calixto believes that’s what helped the restaurant become a new neighborhood staple, where there are 20 development projects in progress and 5000 apartments to be added over the next few years.
For Calixto, who’s not yet 30, Mott Haven has always been home. Raised on 138th Street and Brook Avenue in the South Bronx by parents who emigrated from Mexico, Calixto recalled early childhood memories of being at his family-owned woodworking business — which sits a few blocks away from the restaurant.
Twenty years into helping with the family business, Calixto saw a shift from an industrial and warehouse hotspot to a developing community, and wanted to join this movement in the growing area. He saw a vacancy, and, despite having no restaurant experience, he decided to open one.
Enlisting the help of his brother-in-law Daniel Aguilar — who worked at Mexican and French restaurants – his sister Laura Calixto, and other family members, the family team worked to open what would become Maisonetta.
“We’re happy to be a part of the community,” Laura says. “We’ve been in this neighborhood for a very long time, and it’s great to see people recognize us for bringing something different.”
Maisonetta joins a couple of other spots in the neighborhood, including Mexican restaurant, La Morada, that’s been around for at least a decade; coffee shop El Pipirin that also opened in 2021; Hudson Smokehouse that rolled out in 2020; and Puerto Rican restaurant and speakeasy, Beatstro that opened in 2018.
Victor wanted to create a vibrant space, he says. With the help of his family’s woodworking business he offset opening costs. Inside, it’s a bright, airy space, white-walled with a light-wood bar, bar stools that you can see yourself sitting in for a stretch, and tables far enough apart to feel private, but close enough to maintain a cozy vibe of a neighborhood restaurant.
What’s on a French Mexican menu? To be fair, it’s mostly Mexican — chimichangas, elotes, burritos, and tacos, among starters. A sizzling skirt steak fajitas marinated in peppers and onions, for example. But there’s also oysters, mussels, escargot and steak frites, or grilled octopus.
While entrees fall into the $20-something range, there’s always happy hour with $5 glass of wine or beer, and $1 oysters from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Calixto has also added non-alcoholic cocktails to the menu, including an elderflower spritz.