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LaCandela Proves Peruvian Holds Its Own

When searching for a fresh dining experience, one often looks to experience the new flavors associated with far-off continents from around the world. But there’s one intimate eatery nestled among the stores that line South Broadway in Hicksville that already knows full-well that variety is indeed the spice of life.

La Candela, a Peruvian restaurant owned by Elvin Paulino and his wife Elizabeth, has been pleasing their returning clientele ever since they first opened the doors of the 495 South Broadway location six years ago.

La Candela is the first restaurant Paulino, a Hicksville resident, has ever owned. He had previously been working in an Italian restaurant in Glen Cove for 13 years as a busboy and waiter. His wife, Elizabeth, also has a strong background with food. She often cooked with her mother in her homeland of Peru, selling food at a roadside stand. This gave her the inspiration and desire to open her own restaurant one day, Paulino said.

“I’ve always been interested in the restaurant business, and my wife had always wanted to open a Peruvian restaurant, and that’s how it started,” he said. “My wife is the cook, which I’ve never done. I just have dining room experience!”

Starting small, Paulino and his wife opened a small deli-style take-out establishment seven years ago on South Broadway in Hicksville. The business did well enough that they decided to move down the road into a storefront in a strip mall and expand the operation into a full-fledged restaurant just one year later, dubbed La Candela. Soon afterward, feeling the need to grow even further, the duo would rent the adjoining two stores to their restaurant, knock out the walls, and expand their scope yet again, transforming La Candela into the comfortable eatery that their customers know and love today.

“This is a great location, it’s right in the middle of everything,” he said. “Hicksville is in the middle of all the towns around here, and we have people who come to eat here from the city, from out east, from Brooklyn, Queens, everywhere.”

In addition, Paulino and his wife opened a second La Candela location in West Hempstead a year ago. He said the reaction to their new endeavor has been equally positive to the original location, and has given him hopes of possibly opening yet another restaurant in Manhattan in the future.

When it comes to Peruvian food, Paulino said that he wanted to clear up some of the misconceptions that the average person may have. While some people may lump it in with stereotypical Spanish-style food, he noted that it’s actually quite different. Peru’s cuisine, Paulino said, is unique in that its taste and style spans more than one continent.

“With Peruvian food, they use a lot of Asian ingredients, because there’s a large Chinese population in Peru and their styles have combined with the local styles to create something you won’t find anywhere else,” he said. “It’s mostly seafood — raw, cooked, and fried — and meats, fried rice, and other things.”

Paulino was kind enough to allow us to sample some of his culinary wares, and we were surprised to learn that he wasn’t exaggerating when it came to the uniqueness of Peruvian dining. Among the dishes we tried was a delightful appetizer called Mixed Chviches, consisting of various cooked and raw fish marinated in lemon juice. The main course, however, was the show-stealer; Arroz con Mariscos, which consisted of delicately-prepared and delicious seafood such as shrimp, muscles, and calamari served over a bed of mashed and browned rice and beans and topped with a special seafood sauce. All-in-all, a great treat for the taste buds and an unusual and highly-memorable dining experience, to say the least.

“We’re really different than any typical Spanish food,” he said. “We have a big menu with a big selection and many wonderful products imported from Peru. We even have a fresh, natural juice made from purple corn that our customers love. Everything we make is home-made, and everything we have is worth trying...and if you try it, you’ll come back again and again.”