MERIDEN — Cooking has always been a fundamental part of the marriage between Angel and Isabel Ortiz. The couple recently opened their first food truck, Old San Juan Restaurant, which specializes in the cuisines from Puerto Rico.
“Me and my wife have always loved cooking. It’s my passion. For me, this is not work. I always say ‘I have not worked a day in my life’ because of how much I love it,” Angel Ortiz said.
Angel and Isabel Ortiz, both 50, met in 2007 and started their business in 2012 before getting married in 2014. The couple met a year after Angel Ortiz moved to Meriden from New Haven in 2006.
The business started as a catering business, where they would work out of the venue’s kitchen to serve birthdays, family gatherings and work picnics.
After the pandemic, the couple had thought about opening their own restaurant, but decided a food truck would be more convenient. Ortiz said it allows them to be more flexible with their location.The couple is always changing up their menu, incorporating new dishes and ideas they see becoming a trend in Puerto Rico.
“We don’t want our customers to feel like they’re missing out,” Angel Ortiz said. “When we or our children go to Puerto Rico, we try something new and take pictures to see how we can recreate it.”
Angel Ortiz has always worked at restaurants, ranging from Puerto Rican and Italian cuisines, and graduated from the Lincoln Technical Institute culinary arts program in 2012. His family is from Barranquitas, Puerto Rico
Similarly, Isabel Ortiz was born and raised in San German, Puerto Rico where her parents owned a restaurant. She moved to Meriden in 2003.
“I grew up working with my parents and learned how to cook,” she said. “It was amazing and now I’m using all of my experience to run this business with my husband.”
Jackie Santos, an accountant for Southington Town Hall, drove 15 minutes to pick up lunch for her 11 colleagues Friday. She brought a large black box to keep the lunch hot. Santos says the drive isn’t a problem for her because there aren’t many Spanish restaurants in Southington.
“I’m the only Hispanic at my job so It’s nice to see them enjoy food from Puerto Rico,” she added.
Santos ordered food online through the restaurant's website the day before so it would be prepared on time. This was the second time she and her colleagues ordered from Old San Juan, and this time Santos tried a new menu item, taco-shaped tostones filled with meat.
The truck’s signature dish is Vasos Boricuas which is a cup filled with mofongo, salad, a skewer, and bread on top. Other dishes include mofongo bowls, fried pork chops, empanadillas, mofongo sliders, and more.
Since the food truck is only open three days a week, Friday through Sunday from noon to 8 p.m., the rest of the week is dedicated to shopping and prepping the food to ensure freshness. Each week, the couple goes to C-Town and local grocery stores, filling up their carts with vegetables and meat.
“We want it fresh because our customers deserve that,” Isabel Ortiz said. “It doesn’t taste the same if it isn’t.”
For more information on Old San Juan Restaurant, and to view their menu, visit https://www.oldsjrestaurant.com/.