The Fox family poses in front of their future restaurant. Courtesy of Zorros.

You won’t find a masked vigilante armed with a rapier at Zorros in Mt. Lebanon, just the Fox family whipping up Latin-inspired eats (Zorro is Spanish for “fox”).

It opens the first week of July in the former Jose and Tony’s Mexican Restaurant, a McFarland Road institution for more than 50 years.

Jesse and Samantha Fox, recent transplants from Arkansas, are excited to bring new flavors and a fresh vibe to the old neighborhood haunt.

Samantha’s family hails from the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Handwritten recipes passed down through the generations will be incorporated into the menu and décor.

Customers can order traditional dishes with a modern flair, such as Sancocho, a chicken soup with plantains, yucca and seasonings, empanadas, black beans and rice and flan. The bar will offer red and white Sangrias and specialty cocktails.

“In the restaurant industry, you have to distinguish yourself from everybody else,” Jesse Fox says. “We have a lot of ingredients you’ve had before, just done differently.”

At 16, he took a job as a dishwasher in a rural Arkansas restaurant and over the last two decades, has held every position in the food business, from general manager to executive chef.

He says his expertise, combined with his wife’s culinary heritage, separates Zorros from the pack.

Courtesy of Zorros.

When the couple isn’t experimenting with spices in the kitchen, they’re busy renovating the building. Their daughter Maya, 11, put the ceremonial first hole in the wall with a hammer while her three-year-old sister, Adeline, watched.

Everything, including the façade, will change.

The Foxes are commissioning local high school students to paint a mural of a Caoba, a Dominican flowering tree, behind the bar. A wall with several arched doorways divides the cocktail area from the 70-seat restaurant, which boasts simple, wood tones and live greenery.

Each day, as they work to breathe new life into place, passers-by stop to regale them with stories about first dates and first drinks at Jose and Tony’s.

Taking over a local landmark is daunting, but the family can’t wait to write a new chapter in Mt. Lebanon’s history book.

“We’re building on something that’s been here for 50 years,” Samantha Fox says. “We’re putting a lot of thought and effort into bringing the community something that’s very nice. We feel very lucky to have that opportunity.”

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.