Marc LaMaina had wanted to open something in downtown Riverhead for a long time. The owner of five Lucharitos Mexican restaurants scattered across North Fork and Suffolk was just waiting for the right property to show up. Last fall, it was.
Sunny’s Riverhead Diner & Grill, the latest incarnation of the vintage restaurant that has been in continuous operation since 1932, has closed. No sooner had the new owners closed the building than LaMaina expressed interest in renting the space. On Friday, LuchaCubano opened for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and brought out its last guest at 10 p.m.
Although his existing restaurants are all variations on a rambunctious Mexican theme, LaMaina has a long list of other concepts he hopes to build. And since a pre-pandemic trip to Miami, classic Cuban has topped the list. “The dinner atmosphere was perfect,” he said. “The lighting, the tiled floors, the bar stools – it all looked very 50s, it’s the era you think of when you think of Cuba.” Of course, the 90-seat restaurant got a tropical makeover in hues of hot pink and turquoise. And it serves a very undinner-worthy assortment of tropical drinks, like mojitos, mai tais, and hurricanes.
The food is also a far cry from dinner fare. All the Cuban classics are there: black bean soup, ropa vieja (braised beef), lechon (roast pork) and the Cuban sandwich (ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles pressed in a roll). The kitchen, under the direction of company executive chef Joe Taffurelli, Cubanized Lucharitos ribs with a tangy mojo sauce. You will also find burgers (beef or beans) accompanied by hand-cut fries and freshly squeezed fruit juice. Local producers are represented by bread (Blue Duck from Southold) and coffee (Aldo’s from Greenport).
LaMaina was adamant that the place served breakfast because “the location has always served breakfast,” and he was adamant that it served breakfast all day because ” every time my family has dinner at a restaurant, my kids order pancakes.” In addition to sweet plantain and chocolate chip pancakes, LuchaCubano also serves a bacon-egg-cheese sandwich on a Cuban roll, pan con tomate (tomato-toasted Cuban bread), eggs with pork belly or bean chorizo and Cuban toast, and a classic French toast.
Breakfast items range from $7 to $11; the sandwiches are all $13; main courses are $10-$15 for lunch, $14-$20 for dinner.
Sunny’s, which closed in August, was only the third tenant in the restaurant’s 89-year history. “The previous owner left this place in immaculate condition,” LaMaina said. “He has his own story and I’m excited to be able to write his future.”
LuchaCubano is open on Mondays. to Wed, 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thu. to Fri. 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 87 E. Main St., Riverhead; 631-591-3575, luchacubano.com