By Juanita Gonzalez Valencia, The Miami Student

Many describe him as the life of the party, the guy who carries out the birthday beer bong or “the friendliest Mexican in town.” His name is Giovani “Gio” Febus Rodriguez and he has been working at La Piñata for three years.

“I go to La Piñata for the drinks, the food and GIOOOOO,” Miami University senior Britney Hashemi said of Rodriguez.

La Piñata’s Oxford location opened its doors in May of 2012. It’s home to several margarita flavors, drink specials and, most notably, the Arroz con Pollo. Jose Luis Villanueva, one of La Piñata’s head cooks, described the famous dish’s preparation process.

The rice, he said, is first brought to a golden state and mixed in with chicken broth, veggies and then spiced. The chicken is next and he expertly tosses it around the grill, slicing and dicing it. He later tops it with La Piñata’s homemade cheese dip

Villanueva said customers typically enjoy it with a frozen margarita.

But, the food isn’t the most exciting part. It’s the different personalities, the atmosphere and La Piñata’s color design that makes it stand out from the pack.

No matter the night, friendly employees welcome customers and take them to their seats. A walk to the table will take one past various groups of friends, families and even some lone, on-the-go customers.

“There’s no place I’d rather be after Beat the Clock,” senior Connor McCoy said.

Junior Wesleigh Jones, La Piñata former employee, described the atmosphere of the restaurant as light, and her former employer as “a very approachable boss.”

Villanueva, or Pepe, who originally comes from La Piedad Michoacan, Mexico, has worked for the La Piñata food chain for 10 years. His biggest day-to-day goal is to make the food he cooks taste like home.

And, though he is hidden behind the walls of the kitchen, Villanueva brings life to the restaurant through his food.

“I love to cook anything Mexican,” he said.

While he said he believes the food is as authentic as it can be, he described missing a few key Mexican ingredients (i.e. spices and vegetables) as well as basic cooking techniques (i.e. cooking meat by wrapping it in foil and burying it).

In Oxford, La Piñata is located on 35 E. Church St. There are also chains in Colerain, Fairfield, Centerville and Fort Wright, Kentucky.

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