MEET YOUR MERCHANT: Former sheepherder realizes dream
Pete Coscarart still remembers the lonely months spent in the Nevada hills herding sheep after moving to the United States from Spain’s Basque region in 1970.
His job as a sheep herder meant he would see just one person a week for his ration of food until the job was done in October.
“That was the only way we were able to go to the United States,” said Coscarart, 57, who today co-owns Villa Basque Deli and Cafe in Carson City. “I worked in the sheep ranches for three years.”
After another stint running a landscaping business in California, Coscarart returned to Nevada in 1981 to open a grocery store in Battle Mountain. He had one goal: Find a way to sell his chorizo, a Spanish-style sausage.
“The dream was to make my chorizo accessible to more people, that was one of the reasons,” he said. “Then, of course, you need something to go with it so we opened a deli.”
Eventually that deli grew into a restaurant and by 1994 Coscarart and his wife Martha decided to move the family to Carson City to ensure a good education for their two daughters.
And with the move came the restaurant, which the family continues to run on Basque Way near Carson City’s Walmart shopping center.
Coscarart said the business has continued to grow and so has the menu, which features breakfast and lunch items such as omelets, tacos and burritos. Coscarart’s chorizo, of course, is included in many of the dishes and is sold separately, too. The cafe’s specialties include things like a chorizo sandwich, paella and lamb stew.
“Our cooking is very simple, we don’t use a lot of spices,” he said. “We use garlic, onion, parsley, black pepper, salt. We don’t use a lot of ingredients in Basque food.”
His wife, Martha, who hails from El Salvador, also introduced other menu items such as tamales and pupusas, which are thick corn tortillas usually stuffed with meat and cheese.
The deli also offers bottles of Portuguese olive oil and tea.
Coscarart said he’s returned to the Basque country nine times since moving to the United States 40 years ago – he hails from the region of Navarra in northern Spain.
Last year he took his daughter to one of the hills near Carson City that sheep will graze in the spring to show her the type of work he did when he first came to America.
“I took my daughter there and told her what I used to do, I was a sheep herder,” Coscarart said with a grin. “She asked me if I had a TV, I said no. She asked if I had a washer or dryer, no. She said, ‘I want to go to college, I don’t want to be a sheepherder.’ “
That daughter is currently studying at a university in Texas and another is married in Carson City.
While sitting at one of the tables in the cafe Wednesday morning, Coscarart greets customers as they come in for breakfast.
“I don’t want to get big,” he said. “I just want to be unique and do a good job.”