Born in Argentina, couple ecstatic to open empanada eatery in Silverthorne
The couple responsible for Summit County’s newest Argentine restaurant didn’t have a say in where they were born, but they know Colorado is where they hope to die.
“When we find Colorado, we say, ‘This is the place,’” said Leo Tartufoli, one half of the husband-and-wife team behind The Argentos Empanadas & More restaurant that opened Dec. 8 in Silverthorne. “This is the place. Definitely.”
Argentos Empanadas is a new restaurant inside the Summit Place Shopping Center that’s highlighted by unique menu options, including a wide variety of empanadas with some other dishes from Argentina, along with four clocks set to different time zones and more than a half dozen signed soccer jerseys hanging on the walls.
“Oh, I love it,” Leo said of the jerseys, explaining that each has its own story. “This collection, we want to grow the collection. We are chasing more shirts to bring here.”
The Tartufolis are chasing their dreams, too.
Even though the couple is still perfecting their English, they speak the language well enough to hold up a conversation and detail how they got here. Married for almost 30 years now, the Tartufolis met in their late teens. They were both born in the Argentine capital city of Buenos Aires, and emigrated together to the U.S. in 2000.
Explaining their move, Andrea said that where they were born was “a decision for my parents,” but where they will die is “a decision for me.”
“So you can focus on where you want to die — or more important where you want to live,” Leo added.
Here in Summit County, where Leo can hit the slopes on his snowboard while his wife chases her dreams in the restaurant, this is where they want to be.
“It’s happiness, total happiness,” he continued. “Imagine, we leave our country. We leave everything because we want something better for our daughter, our next generation. We say, ‘OK, the United States is the place … because they have everything.’”
But it wasn’t a direct flight to Colorado.
Instead, the Tartufolis first landed in Los Angeles and spent five years in California before moving to Utah.
In Utah, people kept telling Andrea, a physical education teacher in Argentina, that her food was so good she should open a restaurant, she said.
With her husband, she did just that, calling it “The Tango House,” in Provo.
But the climate wasn’t right, they said.
People in Utah seemed to like the Olive Gardens and Chili’s more than the independent, mom-and-pop style restaurants. As a result, the Tartufolis had to close, and it would be another six years before they got another shot.
“When I closed in Utah, I feel very bad,” Andrea said. “I say, ‘Oh my god, I love to cook. Why?’ It’s frustration.”
That frustration has since faded, however, and the couple was cheerful, smiling and generally happy as they talked about how their new restaurant has been doing being so far.
“We expect a lot of traffic,” Leo said of their December opening that coincided with the beginning of the 2017-18 ski season. “But probably, it’s over what we expect.”
Now, locals are becoming repeat customers, good reviews on Yelp.com are generating even more business and the couple’s been pleasantly surprised by just how well they’ve been received, he said.
An empanada is “simple food, friendly food,” Andrea said, explaining they’re trying to bring a taste of Argentina to the U.S., even though they’ve adjusted their empanadas to better suit American taste buds.
At $3.98 per empanada (and better deals for buying in bulk), the plan is to build a following through volume of sales, according to Leo, who thinks that “if you put something really high price, brand-new product, brand-new concept, you will kill yourself.”
“We want volume,” he said. “We want something quick for skiers.”
The menu options will change with the seasons, Andrea added. Currently, many of their dishes are heavy on the calories to help carry people through a cold day on the slopes.
Argentos Empanadas also sells its empanadas frozen, a popular offering for anyone who’s on the run and looking for something they can stick in the oven for 30 minutes and have a hot meal ready to go.
This story was originally published Feb. 27, 2018.
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