Story from the MyFoodStory website:

Charles C. Mann:

Itanoní is “an innovative attempt to preserve one of Earth’s greatest – and most threatened – cultural and biological assets: the many local varieties of maize in southern Mexico.”[1] When opening up the restaurant in 2001, Amado Ramirez Leyva chose the name “Itanoní” because of its meaning in the Mixtec language - “maize flower.”

Amado began searching for local farmers to provide corn for his restaurant in 2000. By 2001, he had found a network of traditional Indian farmers to supply eight different brands of corn to the restaurant, where it is ground, formed into tortillas, and served fresh to customers. He opened a second restaurant.

Itanoní is a unique restaurant, in that it is one of the few tortillerías in Mexico “that sells what might be described as ‘estate’ tortillas: tortillas that are proudly labeled as being made from maize of one variety, from one area.” The ultimate hope for Itanoní is to “create a chain of franchises, though each Itanoní, unlike typical franchise stores, will be different, selling products only from its own locality.” The ultimate goal is to “preserve traditional Mexican cuisine, assisting some of Mexico’s poorest farmers, and protecting the world’s stock of diversity.”

Amado Ramirez Leyva, born in a village in Oaxaca, began his studies at the University of Chapingo in 1975 at the age of 15. He earned an agricultural economics degree at Chapingo. After winning a UNESCO fellowship, he went on to earn a master’s degree at Humboldt University in Berlin in 1975. Upon returning to Mexico, he took a job teaching at the University of Chapingo. While on leave from the university, he moved to Chiapas to work as a consultant. After his time as a consultant and professor, he returned to Oaxaca to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant and preserving the sacred heritage of maize.

home page of the Itanoni restaurant

From the MyFoodStory website, storyteller AmadoRamirezLeyva

Editor: Andrius Kulikauskas, and author

Note: I am not sure if this is in public domain