Nantaco Opening On South Water Street

First came the hats. Now come the tacos. 

Lee Milazzo

Nantaco, a new taqueria that will feature a grab-and-go menu, is preparing to open at 21 South Water Street for breakfast, lunch and dinner by late May 2022. If the name already sounds familiar, that’s because owners Lee and Cindy Milazzo launched a guerrilla marketing campaign last summer featuring the catchy logo on stickers and hats that they gave away to local personalities, along with lifeguards, surfing instructors, and Cisco Brewers staff. 

“When I was on the island last summer, we made 100 hats and they got such a response that Cindy and I said ‘how can we not do this? We have to do this’,” Lee Milazzo said. “We haven’t made a taco yet and people are ordering hats and stickers off my website. That’s when it clicked, that this could really be something.”

The Milazzos, who own the Samuel Owen Gallery on Centre Street, said Nantaco’s future bricks and mortar location on South Water Street, the hole-in-the-wall spot where Sushi Sean is currently located, will start off small. The building has a commercial kitchen, but no seating for the moment (although they are exploring options for sidewalk seating and/or a few tables in the small alley that runs to the South Beach Street extension).

Chad Norman, formerly of Afterhouse and a handful of other restaurants on and off the island, will serve as executive chef, while Biju Joshi, the former general manager of Lemon Press and Stubbys, will serve as Nantaco’s general manager. Photographer Jonathan Nimerfroh will be Nantaco’s creative director. 

Milazzo said he expects Nantaco to be open early in the morning and stay open late night after the bars close, while delivering quality tacos at reasonable prices. 

“We want to narrow down the menu so what we do is really good and really tasty,” Milazzo said. “I want to get food in people’s hands quickly, and we will be affordable.”

The breakfast menu, for instance, will simply be breakfast burritos served in a foil wrap and coffee – no soy lattes or other complicated drinks. 

Nick Johnson, the owner of the building on South Water Street where Nantaco will be located, recently opened his own store, the Nantucket Surf Club, next door. Johnson said Daily Construction will be coming in to renovate the entire commercial kitchen, and that eventually the takeout area will be pushed back about 20 feet, creating an L-shaped bar that will allow customers to come in one door and go out another. The combination of Nantucket Surf Club and Nantaco will create “a laid back surfing vibe” along that stretch of South Water Street, Johnson said. 

The Nantaco business will also feature “taco trailers” that will bring its cuisine to events, parties and other locations around the island, towed by one of the Milazzos’ vintage vehicles. 

The goal, Milazzo said, is to have Nantaco open by the third week of May, pending the necessary permitting and regulatory requirements of the town. 

The Nantaco mobile “Taco Trailer”

“I feel there is a need for a place like this downtown,” he said. “As a business owner, whenever I go out to get lunch, there’s limited options for things that are good, fast, and not terribly expensive. There’s a number of amazing places to eat, but sometimes I don’t have an hour to sit down for lunch.”

The hats and stickers, along with Nantaco’s comical Instagram account and association with some of the island’s popular brands (like Cisco and Nantucket Island Surf School) are all part of the culture the Milazzos want to create at the new business.

“We want it to be a fun working environment,” he said. “We want people to be excited. Nantaco is a lifestyle brand.” 

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