OCTOBER 2020 • LONGISLANDPRESS.COM 53
CHEF MARK ASTORGA
PERSEVERING WITH PERUVIAN CUISINE
BY ALAN KRAWITZ
While many people were sustaining
themselves on a diet of fast-food delivery
during the coronavirus crisis, others
were peppering their palates with
ethnic cuisines from across Long Island.
And for those who never lost their taste
for fine Peruvian food, Mark Astorga,
the owner and head chef of Las Vinas in
Mineola, is certainly thankful.
“Many owners didn’t open until a
month into the crisis,” recalls Astorga,
who says that his restaurant was open
all along for takeout. “In the very beginning,
we weren’t very busy. I started to
think maybe I should have stayed home
Astorga adds that while his takeout
business has gone up and down, it has
helped to keep the restaurant afloat
during the past several difficult months.
While he talks about the need to “fight
through” these challenging times, he
also says that some restaurant owners
may take this time to leave the business
“I know a few owners who may not
come back at all because they’ve taken
too big a hit,” he says.
Long Island reopening rules as of
press time allows for limited inside
dining along with strict adherence to
regulations such as continued social
distancing and enhanced cleaning.
“We had already changed the entire
setup of our restaurant to handle
takeout and delivery and now we have
to change again to a new system of
having diners indoors,” Astorga says.
He adds that a lot of people may still not
feel comfortable coming back inside the
restaurant. Astorga also says he’s had to
cut some of his prices on food as well as
to-go liquor to make it easier for people.
“We’re trying to accommodate,” he
says, “we went to keep a steady flow
But, on the bright side, Astorga says
that county and state agencies
such as the Nassau County
Department of Health and
the building department
have helped make things
easier for restaurants to
comply with new health
and safety regulations,
including expediting permits
for outdoor dining tables.
Las Vinas has been using a shared
driveway, just off Jericho Turnpike
as an outdoor dining area
for the time being but his staff can
only set it up after 5 p.m. each day.
While Astorga did not attend culinary
school, he says his knowledge
of Peruvian cuisine springs mostly
from watching and helping his
parents cook at a restaurant they
opened in California. In 1976 the
family, originally from Lima,
Peru, moved to New York and
opened one of the first Peruvian
restaurants in the city in Jackson
“I started out in my teenage years
peeling potatoes and helping out in
the kitchen, but I always had a passion
for cooking,” recalls Astorga, 45,
who grew up in California.
After working with his parents for
many years, Astorga had the opportunity
to open his own place, and in
1998 opened a Peruvian spot in Kew
Gardens called Inca’s.
“After Inca’s, I found another location
in Manhasset on Plandome
Road around 2010 and I stayed
for about four years, developing a
solid following in Manhasset as Las
Vinas,” he says.
From there, he relocated to Mineola
near the end of 2015, where he
continued with the Las Vinas concept
of mainstream Peruvian cuisine.
Astorga still does most of the cooking
at Las Vinas, although he has experienced
chefs as well as a few family
members who also help.
Some of Las Vinas’ most popular
dishes include lomo saltado
(skirt steak with onions and
tomatoes over rice), ceviche
mixto (mixed seafood in
lime juice), jalea (mixed fried
seafood with lime-marinated
salad) and arroz pollo verde
(chicken and vegetables in cilantro
In addition, his hot sauce is a big
favorite, made with 15 different
ingredients, based on Jalapeño
Astorga adds that even though outdoor
dining is an option as well as
limited indoor service, he believes
that pickup will still be a preferred
option — especially for people who
“We recently switched to using
our own drivers for delivery as
opposed to the third-party platforms
such as Grubhub and Uber
Eats,” he says, noting that such
services charge too many fees and
those fees cut into profits.
In addition, he says that some
people aren’t spending what
they used to pre-pandemic.
But, looking to the future, Astorga
admits there is “much uncertainty,”
with everything going on.
“I want to stay positive,” he says.
“We’re all going to have to fight
through these tough times to
Las Vinas is located at 178 Jericho
Tpke. in Mineola. It can be reached
at 516-747-0194 or lasvinasny.com
Las Vinas Chef Mark
Astorga cooks up Peruvian
cuisine in Mineola.
(Photo by Jennifer
“I always had a passion for cooking,”
says Chef Mark Astorga.