In his homeland, San Cristobal, Venezuela, Cesar Gonzalez owned a nightclub. But in Miami, the co-owner of Bocas House, a Venezuelan-Peruvian fusion restaurant in Doral, he has quickly become the mastermind behind the city’s most coveted milkshakes.
Gonzalez, 40, who opened the 3,490-square-foot restaurant in February with Venezuelan friend and business partner Levin De Grazia, 25, says that although he didn’t exactly set out to change the milkshake game, he can clearly remember the moment when he knew he had.
“We opened the restaurant without the milkshakes. Can you believe that? But on the third day … it came to me,” Gonzalez said. “I had been thinking and trying to be really creative because I knew I wanted to make something that would be both, visually impacting and overwhelmingly delicious.
“So, when I made the first Nutella milkshake, I placed a homemade brownie sitting on top of a fluffy layer of whipped cream with some Nutella drizzled on top of it which I then topped with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream, which we also made in-house, and of course more Nutella drizzled on top of that … oh and I added about two or three brownie truffles to the mix as well. … And when I was finally done I stepped back and I looked it and that was it. I knew.”
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Gonzalez and De Grazia, who also own Bocas Grill in Doral and operate a kitchen production center close to Miami International Airport, stress the importance of the words “made in-house.”
“For us, there are no trips to restaurant depot,” said De Grazia, who comes from a long line of restaurateurs and whose family owns about a dozen restaurants in Venezuela.
“We really believe in food that tastes homemade. All the meat we serve is hormone-free and grass-fed. We don’t use artificial flavors in any of the meals we prepare. Even the cone and tres leches cake in the Tres Leches milkshake are made in-house and we take pride in that because we believe it’s an essential part of our success.”
Social media has been another strong ally.
“People eat with their eyes! They love looking at pictures of our milkshakes and especially reposting them or sharing them with their friends,” Gonzalez said.
“It’s such a great feeling to have someone walk through the door and tell me they saw a photo of one of our milkshakes on Instagram and can’t wait to try it. Some people come here exclusively for the milkshakes. Some people have even told me they’ve traveled from other states to come try one, others have waited in line for more than an hour, it’s really amazing and we feel so humbled.”
Christy Gonzalez of Coral Gables said she came across the larger-than-life milkshakes at Bocas House when a friend shared a photo on Instagram.
Gonzalez couldn’t resist getting her hands on a milkshake of her own and recently celebrated her 25th birthday by eating the Bocas House Birthday milkshake, topped with a large slice of vanilla frosted chocolate cake with rainbow-colored sprinkles on it. Candle included, of course.
But Gonzalez admits she was ready to show her license to the waitstaff to prove it was her birthday since she was told the Birthday milkshake can not be bought and is only served as a special treat for guests celebrating their birthdays.
However, for South Miami residents Abbie Codispoti, 18, and her sister, Ellie Codispoti, 15, it’s not all about the milkshakes.
“One of our friends posted a photo of one of the milkshakes on Instagram and that’s why we first came in but once we were here we definitely stayed for the food. The ‘Arroz al Wok’ is my favorite dish,” she said.
“Yes, everything we’ve tried has been really good,” Ellie said. On this occasion, the sisters are joined for the first time at the restaurant by their parents, Eddie and Susie Codispoti.
“Our dad was getting mad at us because we kept coming here to eat without him,” they laugh.
Eddie admits: “Because I have a sweet tooth, I have an everything tooth!”
The constant feedback on social media and #irl — in real life — has kept Gonzalez’s creative juices flowing. He has created a variety of limited-time only milkshakes like the patriotic Fourth of July milkshake or the Chocolate-Cookie-Monster-topped Halloween milkshake. Bocas House has also partnered with national companies such as Yelp and local food blog @thehungrypost in the creation of specialty brand-themed milkshakes.
“I’m always creating, always thinking … what else can we come up with?” said Gonzalez, who also dreamed up the White Chocolate Milkshake, a milkshake topped with bite-sized white chocolate Kit Kats, a glazed donut and an upside-down fudge popsicle.
On average, Bocas House sells about 1,800 milkshakes a week; 300 a day with a slight peak on weekends. Prices range from $14-$18 each.
But is all this milkshake madness too good to be true?
The majority of gripes about Bocas House involve wait times.
Negative Yelp reviews for the restaurant share a common thread: “The wait time on a Tuesday was 95 minutes. On a Tuesday,” wrote Yelp Elite Shirley A., while user Engel P. warns “Be prepared to wait”.
Some reviewers are less civil.
“We’re aware the wait times are often an issue for some of our guests,” said Gonzalez, who with De Grazia is in the process of opening four more restaurants — one in Coral Gables, a third in Doral, one in Kendall and one in Weston. “But unfortunately, our restaurant is on the small side.”
The maximum occupancy of Bocas House is 80 people and Bocas Grill seats even fewer at 45.
“We want to expand and keep making people happy with our food,” he said.
Natalie Cortes, 24, of Kendall said that’s exactly how she felt after eating at Bocas House. (Regardless of the 80-minute wait time she was given by the hostess.)
“I saw the crowd waiting outside as soon as I pulled in because most people stand outside by the front door or in the parking lot,” she said. “But once I tried the parilla and tasted a few other appetizers I knew I would go back. I’d go back for the dinner alone, the dessert is just the cherry on top.”
If you go
▪ What: Bocas House
▪ Where: 10200 NW 25th St., #101, Doral
▪ Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11:30 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays
▪ Phone: 786-401-7071