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Cantina owes a lot to mom
By Alicia Fabbre | Daily Herald Columnist

Lindsey and Sergio De Los Santos opened Sergio's Cantina in Geneva last month.


Rick West | Staff Photographer

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Published: 1/18/2008 12:20 AM

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Sergio De Los Santos learned to cook from his mother -- via the telephone.

Now those long-distance cooking lessons are paying off. De Los Santos recently opened his own restaurant, Sergio's Cantina, in downtown Geneva. Nearly half the offerings on the menu are from family recipes.

"His family recipes are outstanding," said his wife, Lindsey. "It's like no other Mexican food I've ever had."

Learning to cook came out of a necessity, at first, for De Los Santos. He called on his mom when he first moved to the United States and was craving her home cooked meals.

"She'd walk me through (the recipe) over the phone," he said.

Among his favorite recipes is his mother's authentic quesadillas, which are also featured on his restaurant's menu. Unlike traditional quesadillas that feature melted cheeses between two tortillas, his mother's recipe calls for stuffing shredded pork and cheeses into a handmade pocket of dough and then deep frying them.

He also lists the queso fundido as one of his favorites. The appetizer, also a family recipe, features shrimp and chorizo with melted cheeses and poblano peppers.

"If you're hungry, those are the best out of the whole menu," he said.

It's those same family recipes that gave him the confidence to put his name on the restaurant.

"I'm so proud of my food I didn't hesitate to put my name on the board," he said.

De Los Santos and his wife, Lindsey, opened Sergio's Cantina in December. The restaurant takes up the space formerly occupied by Potter's Place, which also served up Mexican food.

The restaurant is also a first for De Los Santos, who spent more than 20 years in the restaurant industry.

"I honestly love this business and now I have my own," he said.

Lindsey also has put her touches on the restaurant in the artwork -- from the Spanish tile ceiling she selected to place over the open kitchen to the colorful hand-painted tiles she crushed in her garage to place in the bar counters.

"We wanted to create a really fun atmosphere," she said.

The couple, who live in Elburn, also have relied on family to help with the business. Sergio has two brothers who cook and a sister who helps out at the restaurant. Lindsey's father also helped with some of the construction work.

Sergio's Cantina is located at 30 W. State St. and can be reached by calling (630) 845-9200. A menu also is available at the restaurant's Web site at

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. on Sundays. The restaurant features $1.50 tacos on Sundays and Mondays and various drink specials throughout the week.