Gula Gula Empanadas, grown out of the Amagansett Food Institute at the Stony Brook Southampton campus, will open a storefront in Mattituck in spring 2015, offering its contemporary takes on this Latin stuffed pastry.
Owner Luchi Masliah started Gula Gula Empanadas two-and-a-half years ago and has been selling at farmers markets and wholesale.
Masliah, of Springs, previously owned a restaurant, the Amagansett Fish Company, but has been out of the food business for several years.
“Working with food is rewarding, but a tough job,” she says.
When she wanted to get back into it, she thought of something she could test the waters with. Originally from Uruguay, she decided on empanadas, a portable, traditional food.
“We eat a lot of beef empanadas down in Uruguay,” she says. However, she uses a variety of ingredients, and deviates from tradition. “We have people from so many different cultures here,” she says of the East End. “I thought I would come out with my own creations.”
Masliah uses local resources and fresh vegetables for her ingredients, and her empanadas are always baked, never fried.
She has several vegetarian recipes, such as Indian Spice, made with potatoes and spinach in a whole-wheat crust, and non-vegetarian options, like her Southwestern Chicken with cornflour crust, cilantro and lime juice.
“People say, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen empanadas like this,’” Masliah says.
Having established her business using the commercial kitchen at the Amagansett Food Institute, she was ready to get her own kitchen and storefront.
Masliah searched for a location on the South Fork, but she said there are few places that allow for a “wet use,” such as a restaurant, deli or bakery, and the rents are high. “It’s very difficult for a small business to have a chance to succeed,” she says.
She found that the North Fork, particularly Mattituck, is a great community and booming, with many residents and visitors who are interested in food and farming. She also liked having proximity to the vineyards, and year-round activity.
Gula Gula Empanadas will open at 325 Pike Street, on the corner of Love Lane in a brand new building that is shared with a nail salon.
Masliah is in the process of building a kitchen there, which will have the capacity to accommodate her wholesale business as well.