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'Peru Village' designation may await stretch of road in Hollywood

A segment of Vine Street will be so dubbed if a City Council motion is approved. It boasts the Spanish-language newspaper Enlace Peru and at least four Peruvian restaurants, along with other businesses.

December 27, 2012|By Ben Poston, Los Angeles Times
  • Pedestrians pass by Mario's Peruvian Restaurant in Hollywood.
Pedestrians pass by Mario's Peruvian Restaurant in Hollywood. (Christina House, For The…)

When Milagros Lizarraga wants comfort food, she heads to her mainstay restaurant in Hollywood — Los Balcones del Peru on the corner of Vine Street and De Longpre Avenue.

She usually orders lomo saltado, a signature Peruvian dish that is a mixture of sauteed sirloin, onion and tomatoes served over white rice with french fries.

A first-generation Peruvian immigrant, Lizarraga envisions a hub of Peruvian business and culture in the area.

"There is Chinatown, Koreatown, Thai Town, but what about Peru?" said Lizarraga, of Simi Valley. "I know we are all spread out, but our community needs to have a place, a physical reference. We want something that is a recognition of our contributions."

The stretch of Vine between Sunset Boulevard and Melrose Avenue may be designated "Peru Village" if a motion introduced this month by City Councilman Eric Garcetti is approved.

Garcetti said the name change has support from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and more than 500 city residents like Lizarraga who circulated and signed petitions.

"The Peruvian community is one of the great tiles in the mosaic of Los Angeles," Garcetti said. "We want people to come to Hollywood, enjoy the food and learn about the Peruvian culture."

The Peruvian impact on L.A. isn't just culinary — it includes cultural icons such as radio and TV personality Pepe Barreto and singer Yma Sumac.

Nearly 27,000 foreign-born residents in Los Angeles County list Peru as their place of birth, according to five-year Census Bureau estimates from 2007 to 2011.

A review of census tract data shows groupings of Peruvians in Hollywood, but there are similar concentrations in Koreatown, Westlake and the San Fernando Valley.

Like much of the city, the section of Vine Street is a cobbling together of world cultures: an Irish import shop and a Thai massage parlor, along with Mexican, Chinese and Japanese eateries. Within that landscape, there is the Spanish-language newspaper Enlace Peru and at least four Peruvian restaurants, including the well-known Mario's Peruvian Seafood Restaurant.

The Peru Village neighborhood initiative is less about representing a defined demographic cluster, and more about distinguishing cultures in Los Angeles, Garcetti said.

"I don't think people want a city that's a soup where you mix it all together and you can't taste any of them. I think they want distinct flavors and places with character. Angelenos love these places," he said.

Michael Danno can walk half a dozen blocks from his Hollywood apartment and grab a bite of authentic Peruvian food. For lunch recently, he sat down at the El Dorado, a Peruvian restaurant tucked in a strip mall on Vine Street next to a nail salon and a laundromat.

He ordered the lunch special — a generous helping of grilled chicken, rice and soup — all for $8.

"I love it here. They season their food with lemon and cilantro and it really complements the chicken," said Danno, 32. "It's not Americanized, it's indigenous."

A small-business banker, Danno said he would like to see the neighborhood gain a greater sense of identity.

"I would love a Peru Village. I think it will open a lot of doors for small business and give people a taste of their culture," he said.

ben.poston@latimes.com

Times staff data analyst Sandra Poindexter contributed to this report.

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