In this edition of Tasting Tucson, we’re saying ‘Thank you’ to the great neighborhood spots that have opened their doors to us this year.

We looked back at three visits in 2023 where we met great chefs who also happen to love the neighborhoods in which they work.

They talked about their gratitude for their families, and the customers who support their culinary dreams by ordering a plate.

Starting with our very first Tasting visit to Boca Tacos near Downtown, owner and executive chef Mara Mazn said early in her life, she never expected this would be her career. “I always say,” Mazn shared. “It’s one of the most beautiful accidents I’ve ever done in my life. I always knew I wanted to create to something. I’m not the typical person that sits (at) a desk or a classroom.”

Mazn, though, said she knows who to thank for inspiring her to become a chef.

“(In) my childhood, people think my grandma cooked and she never had a spoon in her life…” she said. “My mom was a mom cook… my nanny, ‘Nana,’ that took care of us, helped my parents she cooked amazing.”

In a different kitchen, on the south side, chef Michael Elefante is carrying on his family legacy at Mama’s Louisa’s Italian restaurant.

He told us he’s also constantly finding ways to honor his wife’s culinary roots, too.

“Every time I do a menu, wherever it’s at,” Elefante said, “there’s always something that’s a little nod to my wife. I mean, she’s my rock; she’s the one that allows me to do this craziness every day.”

More recently, the Good Morning Tucson team headed to Pantano and 22nd to meet the couple running the Samurai Sombrero food truck. Co-owner Gabriela Delgadillo said she’s grateful customers are taking a chance on her and her husband’s dream. She explained how she felt after getting her first review online.

“I read it and I cried! I couldn’t stop crying,” Delgadillo said. “My husband’s telling me, ‘Stop crying. What’s wrong?’ I’m like jumping, “Oh my god. Look at this!… the review said, ‘You gotta go try the truck.’ Then after that, I said, ‘OK. This is happening… they’re coming to us and we really appreciate that.”

Last, but not least, we also want to take a moment to appreciate you reading this at home, for following our journeys in discovering and rediscovering the great restaurants and cafes that make our community a special place to live.