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Mexican restaurant Lucharitos opens in Melville

A shrimp bowl at Lucharitos in Melville.

A shrimp bowl at Lucharitos in Melville. Credit: Marc LaMaina

Nine years after debuting Greenport, Marc LaMaina’s rollicking taqueria-tequila bar chain Lucharitos opens in Melville today. It’s the biggest of the Mexican chainlet's five locations, the furthest west and the first in which he has a partner, Kevin Mannix of Syosset.

The menu is very similar to the Greenport original. Starters ($12 to $22) include fried "Mexican ribs," lobster guacamole and bacon-cream cheese jalapeño poppers. Other dishes feature fillings that range from traditional (carne asada beef, pork carnitas, adobo chicken) to creative (pulled barbecued pork, grilled local duck, coconut shrimp). Choose among burritos ($14 to $17), tacos (orders are $11 to $14), nachos ($12 to $18), quesadillas ($9 to $16), and bowls ($8 to $15).

The bar has an impressive lineup of tequilas; margaritas are made with fresh, housemade fruit purées and signature drinks include the Paloma (tequila, grapefruit and soda rimmed with Tajin spice) and Lucha punch (light and dark rums, Malibu, orange, pineapple and cranberry juice.)

At 80 seats (plus more outside), the dining room is an exuberant blend of tile work — herringboned turquoise subway tiles on the wall, graphic black and white on the bar — plus a tropical mural by Greenport artist Kara Hoblin and, of course, paintings and prints of luchadores, the extravagantly outfitted Mexican wrestlers who are the chain’s namesake. LaMaina came up with the design himself, noting that most of its elements are from Lowe’s. (One exception: the floral oilcloths that cover some of the tables is supplied by an eBay vendor in Mexico.)

LaMaina said that the restaurant’s success will rely on its staff. General manager Thomas Martino is a veteran of Chili’s and TGI Fridays; executive chef Joe Taffurelli has led both corporate and fine-dining kitchens.

Lucharitos got its start in 2012 in a small Greenport storefront in which LaMaina had originally opened a bakery-cafe called Butta’Cakes. In 2015 it expanded into the neighboring space and in 2017, it spawned Little Lucharitos, a taco stand in Aquebogue. LaMaina bought a small farm in Center Moriches and, in 2019, set up a food truck there specializing in barbecue. The full-fledged restaurant and farm experience, which LaMaina calls Luchafarm, opened last year, as did a Lucharitos Burrito Bar in Mattituck.

But Melville is the first location that was purpose-built from scratch. "This was my dream from day one," LaMaina said. "This is a launching pad for us as a brand." Lucharitos is the latest restaurant to open in the Melville Mall spinoff; its neighbors include Gregorys Coffee and the Mediterranean quick-serve chain, Cava, and will be joined soon by T.O.A. Asian Fusion.

Lucharitos is at 834B Walt Whitman Rd., Melville, 631-271-3680, lucharitos.com.

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