Steve Scopelitis makes hand-cranked ice cream at his Bellmore restaurant,...

Steve Scopelitis makes hand-cranked ice cream at his Bellmore restaurant, Texicana Grill. Credit: Marisol Diaz-Gordon

After 15 years of serving Bellmore and environs a refined version of Tex-Mex, Texicana Grill closed on May 1. Owner Steven Scopelitis said that though he had endured tough times in the past, “running this place has become not just difficult, but impossible.”

During the height of the pandemic, he said, “I was making it work. But these last few months, I couldn’t find employees, I couldn’t find products — and the products I could find were so much more expensive.”

The casual, order-at-the-counter spot opened in 2007. Scopelitis, who formerly worked for such chains as T.G.I. Friday's and Applebee's, was determined not to use anything frozen and to stay as close as possible to the real tastes of Mexico (where his wife was born). Bell peppers were verboten and the picadillo (ground beef with potatoes) was, he said, “the authentic Mexican version of the Old El Paso chili mix we all grew up on."

Texicana Grill made a marvelous chili with coarse-ground meat, pinto and black beans and a spice mixture that includes dried chipotle and ancho chilies, paprika, cumin and a hint of cinnamon. In 2017, Scopelitis decided to step up his ice cream game by adopting a centuries-old method: the hand-crank machine. It took 40 minutes of sustained elbow grease to make one three-gallon batch.

As hard as he worked, Scopelitis said that running the restaurant “was just me having fun. When I stopped having that same spirit, it was time to stop.”

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