Owners of Amherst’s El Comalito to open new restaurant in Easthampton

  • El Comalito in Amherst on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Fernando Perez serves customers at El Comalito in Amherst, Thursday. Perez will manage the new Eathampton location in Bak Plaza on Route 10. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Fernando Perez takes a phone order at El Comalito in Amherst, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. Perez will manage the new Eathampton location in Bak Plaza on Route 10. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • This storefront, formerly Adamo's Pizzeria at 126 Northampton Street in Easthampton, will become an additional location of El Comalito restaurant. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/22/2019 5:00:02 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The Bak Plaza on Route 10 will welcome a new neighbor next month when El Comalito, a popular Salvadoran and Mexican restaurant in Amherst, opens a second restaurant.

“It’s a family restaurant, and we want to give a little taste of our food and do the best for the community,” Ana Artiga, a co-owner of the restaurant, said on Thursday. “I feel a lot of respect for Mexican people and their culture and their food … We want to grow and share that with the community of Easthampton.”

In July 2012, Artiga and her mother, Mirna Artiga, opened the original El Comalito on West Street in Amherst after working for several different types of restaurants in the area, including at pizza shops and at Chinese restaurants. They also purchased El Guanaco, a Mexican restaurant, in South Hadley in 2007 before eventually selling the restaurant in 2008.

After six years in Amherst with El Comalito, Ana said a regular customer, David Valdes, implored her to open a second location in either Northampton or Easthampton. Then, last November, the owners acquired a lease at the former Adamo’s Pizzeria at 126 Northampton Road for their next venture.

For the past five years, Valdes, who lives in Northampton and is originally from Veracruz, Mexico, has gone to El Comalito nearly every week because they make traditional Mexican food.

“I pushed her to find a place around here because the food is so good,” Valdes said. “I can tell you they make special food, and it’s like homemade food.”

He said he kept his eyes open for a vacant restaurant for the Artigas to move to, and he jumped on the opportunity once Adamo’s opened up, telling Ana about it. Valdes’ favorite dishes at the restaurant include the tacos and the huaraches (big corn tortillas filled with beans served on top of lettuce, onions, cilantro, salsa, cheese, and meat).

Artiga said she recognizes that there is a Mexican population in Easthampton and she is looking forward to serving up the burritos, enchiladas and Mexican-style dishes that have made El Comalito an Amherst favorite.

The Artigas are from Cojutepeque, El Salvador, and the restaurant’s recipes are a combination of traditional Salvadoran dishes and Mexican food that Mirna learned from a Mexican cook in Virginia nearly 20 years ago.

The fried pork with potato and green sauce and tortillas (also known as carnitas en salsa verde) is one of Ana’s favorite dishes cooked by her mother, along with the “tinga torta,” shredded chicken with onions, chipotle salsa, mayonnaise, lettuce and avocado.

The restaurant in Amherst began as a takeout and delivery. Within a year, they expanded into a sit-down restaurant, and then in 2014 they installed a bar and got their liquor license in 2016.

Ana’s mother is a co-owner of the restaurant and her son, Fernando Artiga, will be a manager of the Easthampton restaurant. There are 15 employees at the Amherst location, and there will be 2o in Easthampton, according to Ana.

Recently, a customer came into El Comalito in Amherst and remarked on how much the restaurant had changed over the years, Ana said.

“She came the first day we opened, and now it’s totally different,” Ana said. “She was shocked at how much it changed.”

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com

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