Taste the Caribbean Flavors of The Ital Trap

In December 2018, Julio Mendoza launched his very own food business and named it The Ital Trap. Inspired by his family, his community, and his Caribbean heritage, Julio combines passion and flavor into each dish.

There is more of an emphasis on the spiritual dynamics between our consumption and the living world rather than just omitting a specific food from a “diet”...or as said in the caribbean, a “livit (live-it/versus die-it).
— Julio Mendoza, The Ital Trap

The concept was cooked up right at Julio’s kitchen table through meals with family. “The Ital Trap emerged by demand. As a family we have always opened our home and kitchen to friends and community,” says Julio, “After a while word got around and the community began coming by the house and ordering take out! As the demand grew, we began to take steps in creating a legitimate brand and business.”

In 2014, Julio transitioned to a plant-based diet after uncovering the spiritual, ecological and compassionate dynamics of consumption, “It became a responsibility to make an immediate change to our lifestyle,” he says. Not wanting to jeopardize flavor, Julio looked to his Caribbean roots for inspiration and found it.

“The word ‘Ital’ is a Caribbean colloquialism that refers to a ‘Vital’ or natural way of being; void of animal products, excess salt and processed foods. There is more of an emphasis on the spiritual dynamics between our consumption and the living world rather than just omitting a specific food from a diet...or as we say in the Caribbean, a ‘livit’ (live-it/versus die-it). ‘Trap’ comes from the side that once you experience the Ital vibe one will become trapped by the wellness.

Launching idea into reality

After six months of business training through the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator program, newly graduated Mendoza was ready to launch. He found the Fuerza Local Community Kitchen through Local First Arizona Foundation, which provides him the commercial kitchen space at affordable pricing for startup food businesses. 

“We started using the Fuerza Local kitchen immediately after we graduated from the accelerator program in January,” says Julio, “It is more than helpful for our culinary experience as it is not only fully equipped with the proper kitchen necessities, but also the sense of community that it facilitates through the events that are hosted within the kitchen as well as the friendly business connections that naturally cultivate by sharing a cooking space.”

On the menu are dishes like Ital Bowl and Plantain Boat, two fan favorites. The Ital Bowl is a combination of coconut turmeric rice, sweet plantains, organic kale salad with sun-dried tomatoes and walnut meat crumble. The Plantain Boat is an entire sweet plantain stuffed with braised creole jack fruit and pickled cabbage slaw. Both topped with a signature mango-pepper sauce and cashew based aioli.

Adds Julio, “Caribbean Cuisine is what comes natural to me, not to mention it is very expansive and heterogeneous in terms of flavor; you can experience flavors from East Indian, African, Indigenous and European origin all on one plate - it makes the possibilities endless!”

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What’s next for The Ital Trap

Julio and his team are creating a product line of their signature Creole Rice mix and jerk chicken dry-rub seasoning, which will be made available for customers to purchase online and at their pop up events.

“We want to create these experiences starting with the flavor and love,” Julio says, “And with this momentum, we will execute more expansive approaches to our vision of creating community experiences.”

About the Fuerza Local Community Kitchen:

Fuerza Local Community Kitchen is a collaborative space located near downtown Mesa, Arizona.
The kitchen is available to food entrepreneurs who are looking to start or grow their business and need a fully equipped space for small and large food operations to use at a low cost. Our space supports residents through entrepreneurial development and skills training, and aims to advance a healthy and engaged culinary community. We believe that through food, we cultivate inclusive and creative communities for generations to come. More at: www.localfirstazfoundation.org/community-kitchen