Marc LaMaina just brought a bold splash of color to Riverhead.
The latest brainchild from the North Fork restaurateur, Luchacubano feels like a true evolution of the ever-growing “Lucharitos” brand, a slick, colorful restaurant with a Cuban-inspired menu that feels quite unlike anything else in the community.
Work on Luchacubano started five months ago, with LaMaina coming up with the idea after falling in love with Cuban-inspired cuisine during a trip to Miami. It’s inside the freshly renovated building that previously was home to Sunny’s and for decades was the Riverhead Diner & Grill.
LaMaina — who already owns Lucharitos brand restaurants in Greenport, Aquebogue, Mattituck, Center Moriches and Melville — worked with chef Joseph Taffurelli to develop the menu.
“Joe went out to every Cuban restaurant he could find on Long Island,” he said. “We did a lot of research. We picked items that were simple, some traditional, and Joe added the ‘Lucha’ feel to it.”
That “Lucha” feel, according to LaMaina, means taking the traditional cuisine and putting their own spin on it.
“I like things a little lighter,” he said.
One big addition to the Lucharitos repertoire is a full breakfast menu, which includes LaMaina’s favorite dish on offer, the pan con tomate, toasted Cuban bread with tomato, served with Cuban coffee.
“It’s like food you’d get in Cuba — in the non-tourist section,” he said.
The coffee comes from Greenport coffee guru Aldo Maoirana, who is roasting coffee specifically for the restaurant.
In fact, everything at Luchacubano feels bespoke, from the coffee to the decor to the special beers from übergeek and even the craft cocktail and rum menu developed and curated by Tracy Smith. Much of the bread is made from Blue Duck Bakery. When the farming season kicks off in the warmer weather months, LaMaina and Taffurelli plan to source all the vegetables from local farms, including the farm at Lucharitos in Center Moriches.
Taffurelli aimed to make a menu that would be both approachable and specialized. The menu is filled with Cuban sandwiches, as well as larger entrees. One sandwich that Taffurelli thinks is going to be a sleeper hit is the Elena Ruz: sweet bread, turkey, guava paste and cream cheese.
“It’s one of those things that seems weird, but when you have it? I decided this needed to be on the menu,” he said. “It might not be our best-seller but people are going to love it.”
Even the burger, which Taffurelli described as a smash burger, can be ordered with either beef or chorizo.
“I figured, what’s this area missing?” said LaMaina, a Riverhead resident. “A Cuban vibe, a Miami vibe. It felt right and the space absorbed the vibe. So I had a vision and it worked, I guess!”
Luchacubano is now open in Riverhead at 87 East Main Street for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Check it out on Facebook.