RONKONKOMA, New York -- Long Island's Roy Pelaez came to Long Island with a dream to open Long Island's first empanada based restaurant.
In 2011, that dream became reality when Island Empanada's first location opened up in Ronkonkoma.
Pelaez has trained in both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, where he mastered the art of empanada making. He created a secret sofrito seasoning that gives the empanadas an authentic "taste of the islands" flavor.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, Pelaez has managed to keep his business booming using proper precautions and safety measures with his staff. While running his restaurant, he has donated over 3,000 empanadas to Long Island hospitals, police precincts, and group homes.
"We have been fighting through this challenging time of the pandemic by providing our customers with empanadas," said Pelaez. "We feel that helping out in the community during this time is very important for all essential workers."
Pelaez's daughter Danielle, is also involved with the family business by managing one of the storefronts.
"It's definitely very inspiring to work alongside my dad every day and see what the business has grown into," said Danielle. "Just from one Ronkonkoma location to now five locations, it's definitely instilled a very good work ethic in me to just never give up on your dreams and to just keep working until your dreams come true."
Pelaez hopes he can expose more people to try empanadas and taste the authentic style of his cooking.
"We're fortunate that the community embraced us," said Roy. "We're very grateful for what we have right now, so while we are still doing okay we wanted to try and help out others in the community."
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Long Island's 'Island Empanada' donates over 3,000 meals to healthcare workers