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Top chef from Rockville Centre partners on Toro Tapas; set to launch in July

Chef Alex Bujoreanu with Ariel Bonilla at Toro in Patchogue. (Michael White)

Toro Tapas & Tequila Lounge is just a few short weeks from opening in Patchogue.

And the Bonilla family behind the restaurant has brought in a ringer.

The executive chef and a partner in Viaggio Tapas in Rockville Centre — the restaurant that inspired the Bonillas to open Toro — has signed on to be a partner and the executive chef here in Patchogue.

“We’re going to be bringing something here that no one else is doing,” said the chef, Alex Bujoreanu, who cooked at top hotels and restaurants across Europe before moving to New York City and later helping open Viaggio Tapas in 2014.

Like with the other restaurant, Toro will be offering authentic Spanish dishes, albeit in the form of small plates called tapas.

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“I can never find 100 percent Spanish food when I’m out,” Bujoreanu sad. “I find Spanish with American influences, or Italian influences. Everything is with, with with. Here we’ll be keeping it Spanish.”

To offer more specific details, Toro will focus on Catalan fare, from the Catalonian region of Spain.

Some items from the tapas menu:

Braised oxtail in Tempranillo wine | spanish prawns, red wine, onion

Dry aged burger | quail eggs, foie gras, french fries, lettuce, tomato

Grilled black pork (secreto) | low fat organic pork, shisito, fingerless potatoes

Bujoreanu said the black pork is dry aged like prosciutto, except it’s aged for four years, not four months.

The menu also features salads, flatbreads, two big plates (dry aged steak, seafood) and paella options.

The chef said he incorporates a style of presentation known as molecular gastronomy, which blends physics and chemistry to transform tastes and textures of food for an innovative dining experience.

To give an example, Bujoreanu flashed to his Instagram feed on his phone and displayed a short video of a tray of oysters being smoked under a small dome in the dining room at Viaggio.

““I don’t want to sell food or drinks; I want to sell happiness,” Bujoreanu said. “For me it’s all about how you feel.”

In an interview in February, Ariel Bonilla of East Patchogue, whose family owns Bravo and La Confianza Deli & Restaurant on South Ocean Avenue, said it was his experiences at Viaggio that led to him scrapping whatever plans he had for the space at 224 East Main Street.

“I was thinking about doing chicken wings and then quesadillas, and then I thought, I can’t go that route anymore,” he said. “I needed to do something special.

“I fell immediately in love with the whole experience,” he had told greaterpatchogue.com in February, before partnering with Bujoreanu. “Just the small plates, with everything different. And the sharing, and the wine. “It’s really a bonding experience. It’s eating and bonding.” 

It was during those trips to Viaggio that he was introduced to the chef.

“He came to spy on me at Viaggio,” Bujoreanu joked. “And my style of work now is that I’m not back cooking every day. I go out and talk with the people.”

Those conversations led Bonilla to invite the chef to meet with him and his dad, José.

“We sat down and reached the decision to do something together and open the same concept here,” Bujoreanu said.

“Right here in Patchogue,” Bonilla said, “which deserves it.”

Toro Tapas & Tequila Lounge is opening in early July.

About the author: Michael White

Michael White is a Bellport resident, longtime newspaper reporter and editor, and the owner of greaterpatchogue.com. Email him your story ideas or tips: mike@greaterpatchogue.com