By Sophia Ricco
With the flavors of Texas and the fierceness of Mexican fare, Del Fuego is making its mark on Long Island.
Del Fuego serves up a variety of Tex Mex cuisine that blends the best of two cultures’ cooking. Mexican standards found on the menu are given satisfying Tex Mex twists, including quesadillas, tacos, burritos and fajitas.
First opened in St. James by DeNicola Brothers Concepts, the family-owned restaurant group that owns Ruvo in Greenlawn and Port Jefferson, they primarily focused on Italian eats before venturing “south of the border.”
“I think the brothers were looking for something different,” manager Jean Alzheimer said. “They were undecided until Joe and his brother were at a convention in Texas and went to a Tex Mex restaurant. They thought they’d give it a shot.”
Since then Del Fuego has expanded to Babylon, Patchogue and most recently, East Northport. All of the locations boast bright, colorful interiors with influences from Tex Mex culture. Many pieces were purchased at Texas auctions.
The brothers have always had a passion for going above and beyond with the vision and design of their restaurants, influenced by their artist father.
A standard at Del Fuego is freshness. Everything is made in-house daily. They even infuse their own tequila, offering a pineapple-tequila, made with fresh pineapple and rested for seven days, or spicy-tequila, infused with jalapeno, poblano and habanero peppers. The pineapple stands out in the bee’s knees ($12), a fruity concoction that is dressed up with tiny honeycombs for a fun garnish. On the spicy side, the mojito picante ($12) is quite the journey of flavors at first sip, with notes of jalapeno, lime, rum and ginger. An interesting take on the traditional margarita, the blackberry bliss ($12) incorporates the bittersweet fruit, while keeping things sour with lime juice.
“Freshness makes us stand out,” Alzheimer said. “Tex Mex is becoming more popular and to stand above the rest of them, you have to go that extra mile.”
Del Fuego hopes to be a family eatery, while also welcoming the lively and loud to watch a game. Every Thursday night, local musicians are showcased.
Any avocado fan is bound to love the traditional guacamole. It’s very fresh with a subtle kick of red onion and pico de gallo.
The turkey-chorizo chili ($10.50) is a traditional Mexican staple that gets a spin of comfort. It oozes spicy juices under a layer of melted mexican cheese.
On the other side of the cultural spectrum, the BBQ pork-filled wontons ($12.50) are sensational with a soft shell that encloses tender pulled pork topped with mango-BBQ sauce.
“They want it to be somewhere for anyone to go and that’s really what we see,” Alzheimer said. “We have different specials every day, aimed at everyone from food to alcohol. You could come with the kids or come for happy hour with coworkers.”
The expansive menu comes from a collaboration of the minds of the brothers and longtime chefs at their restaurants. Since its debut the basic menu has not changed, but Del Fuego provides innovation through lunch specials and a featured Taco of the Week.
A favorite with many, the chicken fajitas ($17.50) let guests create their own meal. Juicy chicken is complemented by sauteed peppers and onions.
Another flavorful meal, the crispy red snapper ($20.50) is a decadent delight with a rich tomato and habanero sauce covering a massive piece of fish.
Also not lacking in flavor, carne asada tacos ($17.50) layer on succulent skirt steak with traditional taco fixings.
“Some people expect Mexican food or barbecue but that’s not us,” Alzheimer said. “It can only be described as Tex Mex.”
2519, 17 Hewitt Square, East Northport
Cuisine: Tex Mex
Atmosphere: Lively and colorful
Sushi bar entreés: $16-50
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.; Sunday, 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.