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From $190/week to the opening of Toro Tapas in Patchogue Village

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photos courtesy of Benny Migs Photo


Toro Tapas & Tequila opened its doors to local dignitaries, business people and well-wishers during a heartwarming ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday night in Patchogue Village.

Chef and partner Alex Bujoreanu, who has built up a huge following at Viaggio Tapas in Rockville Centre, promised a restaurant as good as his first one.

“The best Spanish restaurant in New York,” he said.

It was Viaggio Tapas that inspired  Ariel Bonilla of East Patchoigue to focus on Spanish tapas, or small plates, at the Bonilla family’s latest endeavor. (The Bonillas also own Bravo Supermarkets and La Confianza Deli & Restaurant on South Ocean Avenue.)

Then, during conversations between Ariel, his father, José Bonilla, and Bujoreanu, they all decided to partner up.

The chef just had one question to ask, he admitted Wednesday night:

“Where is Patchogue?”

Toro Tapas opened last month at 224 East Main Street near the corner of East Main and Rider Avenue.

“This was a dream a year ago,” Ariel Bonilla told the crowd. “I was sitting right there; it’s just beautiful to see it come true.”

All this is happening nearly 20 years after José Bonilla, who emigrated from El Salvador to the U.S. in 1983, bought La Confianza in 1997 (and later moved to its current spot on South Ocean).

To make that purchase, José Bonilla had been saving his money dating back to the early 1980s, when he was making $190 a week.

In 2006 he expanded into the space next door and opened Bravo. 

Over the years, José Bonilla and Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri became close.

Wednesday night, the mayor recalled some business advice he once offered José Bonilla on attracting a more diverse clientele.

“I said, Goya is wonderful but you need some Progresso,” Pontieri said to laughs. “My mother will shop for Progresso but she won’t shop for Goya.”

The mayor also recalled a trip to Ecuador he took a year after the tragic slaying of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero in 2008.

“I’m walking through the airport, not knowing who I was going to see or what kind of response I was going to get,” Pontieri said. “And I come around a corner, and who’s standing there? José [and others].

“And I went up to them, and asked, what are you doing here? They said, ‘You take care of us in Patchogue; we take care of you in Ecuador.'”

“He does wonderful things, all the way around,” Pontieri said.

photos courtesy of Benny Migs Photo

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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