A Port Jefferson Station spot that's long been given over to pizza and pasta is wearing a splashy new visage as the island's easternmost Margarita's Cafe.
A riot of bright colors and painted flowers now covers the walls at the revamped Nesconset Highway spot, which until March was Luciana’s Pizzeria + Ristorante and, before that, Vito's of Port Jeff. The menu now brims with about 85 Mexican, Tex-Mex, Caribbean, central and South American, Cajun and even traditional American pub dishes such as Buffalo wings.
After 10 months of running Luciana's, which they founded, co-owners Carla Fernandes and Colón Solis thought Mexican food was a better fit for their location, and partnered with Margarita's owner, Willie Martinez, to bring a Margarita's to eastern Suffolk county. Fernandes and Solis had previously co-owned a spur of Margarita’s Cafe & Cantina in Wantagh, and Solis managed Besito in Huntington for four years. "Initially, we were going to open [Luciana’s] as a Mexican restaurant, so this was meant to be,” Fernandes told Newsday this spring.
The couple closed the eatery for about four months to transform the Mediterranean-style Luciana's into a cantina with aqua walls and fuchsia beams, plus custom murals (including one of Frida Kahlo) on the walls. They moved the bar to a more prominent spot near the entrance, and a lengthy drinks menu is given over to margaritas, mojitos, martinis and Mexican-style cocktails, plus $5 bottled beers.
The exhaustive menu travels the Mexican and Tex-Mex culinary spectrum from nachos and tacos to enchiladas, flautas and chimichangas. A bowl of $9 guacamole is made tableside, and woven into the mix are dishes such as jambalaya, paella, ropa vieja, Cuban-style fried plantains (mariquitas) and a surf-and-turf style dish, may y tierra, of lobster tail, shrimp and grilled shell steak covered in guajillo pepper sauce and queso freso. Prices start at $4 for soups and top out at $23 to $25 for larger meat and seafood entrees.
Margarita’s got its start with an East Meadow location in 2009, and has since grown to eight locations around Long Island, with another to open soon in Port Washington. Owner Martinez also co-owns The Cuban in Garden City, which will expand to Patchogue within the year.
Margarita's Cafe, 4747 Nesconset Hwy., Port Jefferson Station. 631-642-8555. margaritascafe.com/port-jefferson-station/