Oscar Mastrantuono, owner of Bomberos in Sunnyslope, has an unshakable confidence that would make his hot-blooded South American ancestors proud. Though he was raised in New York, the Uruguayan-born entrepreneur carries himself with the same Latino swagger that helped his father immigrate to this country and then run a successful bodega in one of America's most populous cities. He's a born risk-taker.
Starting at age 6, he helped out at his father's store, stocking refrigerators and emptying recycling bins. He hasn't stopped working since. "Growing up, I knew I wanted to run my own business," says Mastrantuono. "I just didn't know what I wanted to do."
After a stint studying criminal justice in college (at the time, he considered becoming an FBI agent but ultimately wasn't keen on the whole risking-his-life thing), he relocated to Phoenix for the weather and started prowling neighborhoods for the perfect business location. His first idea was a sports bar. Next, a strip joint. After the wife and kids came along, that one went right out the window.
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Instead, the savvy businessman found himself a niche — a neighborhood wine bar that serves only South American wine and beer, along with panini, bruschetta, and artisan cheese (for details, see our award). On any given day, you'll find Mastrantuono lounging behind the bar, pouring drinks, and sipping Yerba Mate through a silver-tipped straw in a cup that looks like an embellished coconut.
So what did Mastrantuono do between college and opening the restaurant? Stripper? International spy? Sorry, nothing quite so exotic. He spent 10 years working customer service and sales in the hospitality industry.
Well, at least he's got the tall-dark-and-handsome thing going for him. And his age remains a mystery (we tried to pry it out of him, but he wouldn't tell).
With cool confidence, Mastrantuono admits he doesn't have a Plan B. But he's willing to do anything it takes to make his restaurant succeed, from washing dishes to cooking to tending bar — all of which he's done. His grand plan is to open 10 restaurants in the next year and become the Latino Sam Fox. Mastrantuono says he's up to the challenge. The financial rewards aren't exactly stellar, he quips, "but it's just cool to do your own thing. I don't want to regret things later in life. If I'm going to do it, I'm not going to do it half-assed."