Costa Rican roots, South Shore heritage offered at empanada restaurant

Gluten-free ingredients, fresh daily food impresses community

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On Tuesday, Jan. 9, the Bayport-Blue Point Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting for Tico’s Empanadas in Blue Point on Montauk Highway.

Tico’s opened in August of last year and has been serving up over a dozen varieties of fresh, made-to-order empanadas to the community, who has welcomed the new cuisine.

Owner Ruben Santiesteban, who originally hails from Babylon, called finding and settling the store’s location in Blue Point “divine intervention” after stumbling upon the space that had a fully loaded professional kitchen.

“It was the best decision for us because the community has been so wonderful,” said Santiestevan.

Learning how to make empanadas from his abuelita, Santiesteban said there is definitely a Costa Rican heritage to the cuisine offered at Tico’s, especially with the Costa Rican saying of “pura vida” emblazoned on the walls of the interior, but that the empanada fillings are crafted from Pan-Latino and Central American epicurean inspiration.

Honoring the couple’s Long Island heritage, an expansive mural of the Robert Moses Bridge has been painted across the 30-foot west wall of the restaurant that Ruben and Christina spent days perfecting with the use of a projector.

While there are approximately 15 filling varieties offered up daily, and made fresh each morning, Santiesteban said the three must-try empanadas were the classic beef and potato, bacon cheddar ranch, and sweet chili beef.

“We tried many different things and the sweet chili beef came out really well,” said wife and co-owner, Christina.

Nearly all the food offered at Tico’s is gluten-free, as the empanadas use a traditional corn/maza-based dough.

“All the ingredients we use, from our rice to our beans, obviously the meat and the dairy is something we use—most of it is gluten-free,” said Santiesteban.

“My grandma taught me how to make tortillas and empanadas, and we make the dough exactly the way she did,” said Santiesteban.

“Each bite tells a story of my culinary journey, combining the warmth of family traditions with the excitement of new flavors… we created a culinary adventure that transcends borders at your table,” said Santiesteban.

With nearly a dozen chamber veterans in attendance and enjoying the freshly made empanadas served up by Santiesteban, the networking lunch was a delicious mix of well wishes and celebration.

Chamber membership director Bryn Elliott said that the chamber “welcomes Ruben and Christina” and foresees “many years of success” for Tico’s Empanadas.

Legis. Anthony Piccirillo (R-8th District) said, “It is always great to welcome a new small business to the community. I cannot wait to patronize their establishment.”