A Latino Haven

La Isla, a Latino haven in Downtown Endicott
by Hudson Geistfeld and Riammy Hernandez

Latinos all agree that food is an essential part of their cultures. Recently, the two of us had the pleasure of speaking to local business owner Nelba. She owns and runs her own restaurant, La Isla, providing Downtown Endicott with authentic Latino culture through food. Nelba is originally from Ecuador but moved from Brooklyn to Binghamton twenty years ago with the dream of bringing Latino food with her. She started off with a food truck parked in front of Endicott High School nine years ago. The truck was a massive success, something that shocked Nelba at the time. She saw her customer count grow rapidly as more individuals came to the truck to taste her cooking. Eventually, the praise she received from her customers was enough to warrant a full restaurant of her own.

La Isla opened four years ago in 2018. The restaurant offers several different types of food including Puerto Rican, Dominican, Ecuadorian, and Mexican. She says her most popular items are her pernils, a type of slow-roasted pork, as well as her pastelitos, stuffed pastries with sweet or savory fillings. Although most of her customers are Hispanic or Latino, she states that many Anglo Americans fall in love with her dishes as well, specifically the pernil. Her restaurant serves as a center for the Latino and Hispanic community as there are very few specific places where they can share and enjoy their cultures. She meets many of her customers at their monthly Spanish mass and she continues creating a sense of community that starts the second her customers walk through her doors. She also carries the CNY Latino newspaper in her restaurant, allowing all Latino and Hispanic individuals the opportunity to find more products and people that cater to this community.

La Isla is an essential part of the Latino community in the Central New York area. Nelba is truly a leader and a local hero. She gives back not only with food and culture to the community, but also providing a haven where individuals can feel comfortable and enjoy the highlights of their home gastronomies with friends and strangers alike.

Photo: Nelba, on the left, pictured with coworkers holding La Isla banner in the restaurant

Hudson Geistfeld and Riammy Hernandez are students at Binghamton University. They are Spanish minors currently taking the course Spanish in the Community.

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