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Puerto Rican food trucks make debut in Buffalo

The city’s first Puerto Rican food truck started dishing up pastelillos and papas fritas on Niagara Street last week.

Ricos Pinchos Place is run by a husband and wife team who started their career started selling coconut candy in Puerto Rico in 1996. In this country, Sarahi Alicea and her husband Hector Carrasquillo have been serving festivalgoers since 2013, Alicea said.

Their food truck has been in operation since June 8, often setting up on Niagara Street near Tops, between Maryland and Hudson streets, around noon, Tuesday through Saturday.

There’s rice with pork chops, chicken or beef, and nonalcoholic pina colada drinks. There’s also a selection of fried snacks, including pastelillos, or fried turnovers, papas fritas, baseball-sized mashed potato spheres stuffed with spiced meat and fried. Less often seen in Buffalo are alcapurrias, fritters made from green banana, and piononos, which are plantain pinwheels with beef or chicken.

Then a second: A second Puerto Rican food truck, Taste of Puerto Rico, has also hit the streets.

The truck, which was originally to be named Niagara Café Express, started selling June 13. Its menu includes yellow rice with pigeon peas, and pastelillos, or fried turnovers, in flavors including beef and cheese, chicken and cheese, pizza, and a dessert version with strawberries and cream cheese. Tostones, or plantain chips, are also available, along with limbers, which are frozen ice pops.

“We plan on being out several days during the week, including Thursdays in the Square,” said Anita Rodriguez, who owns the truck, along with her stepson Romelo Matos. As with any food truck, fans can check Facebook to find Taste of Puerto Rico’s location.

Quarter-century fete: J.P. Fitzgerald’s, the Hamburg restaurant styled after an Irish pub, is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a slate of events that start Friday.

A ceremony involving a time capsule, speeches and dignitaries, including the deputy general consul of Ireland, begins at 9:45 a.m. That evening, the party will include live music and a drawing to win a trip to Ireland.

The restaurant, at 4236 Clark St., has been expanded several times, and named a Top Small Workplace in WNY by The Buffalo News.

Owner Bob Brunner will be honored as Irish-American of the Year at the Buffalo Bisons game on June 23, Irish Festival Night. In 25 years, his restaurant has grown from 26 to 95 employees, he said. “It’s pretty amazing when I step back and look at the expanded building and the successful business and realize how far J.P.’s has come,” he said.

Open: El Azteca Mexican Grill opened in the Chautauqua Mall on May 28.

The family-owned eatery joins the mall food court, at 318 E. Fairmount Ave., Lakewood. Like other food court vendors, it’s counter service with shared seating. But plans are underway to cordon off an El Azteca section, so that margaritas and other alcohol can be served, a mall spokeswoman said.

Closed: The Well, a bar and restaurant at 4190 N. Buffalo Road, Orchard Park. (Hat tip @716thoughts)

Clarification: A line in last week’s column about the closing of Milano’s in the Town of Tonawanda apparently confused some readers. The item noted that the pizzeria had its quirks, including a minimal online presence and that it “a credit card order necessitated the receipt being given to an employee who would go process it somewhere else.” Some thought this line suggested something fishy was going on with credit card orders. Not at all. It was included to show that Milano’s was different from other restaurants but still had devoted customers and thrived for decades.

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