retrospective

The Spicy Strip: Reyna Foods

By now, you know the Strip is the center of ethnic and specialty foods for the entire Allegheny Valley. Today, we’re spotlighting the family of institutions that is Reyna Foods.

pinata donkeys and shelves_reyna foods_Strip District

Currently, Reyna Foods is the leading Mexican grocer in the Strip, and you don’t get to hold that title just overnight. Nicola DiCio opened Reyna Foods in Pittsburgh in 1987, at a time when it was hard to find ethnic ingredients in Pittsburgh grocery stores. To prepare family recipes, his Mexican-American mother had to have relatives in Texas ship her ingredients.  When he traveled, Nic would pick up items from out state Latino stores and bring them home for mom.  To extend the shelf life of some perishable corn tortillas, Nic once fried them as chips and those proved to be enormously popular.

Realizing the need for a source of Mexican foods in this area, Nic DiCio set up shop in a small storefront in Etna, with the intention of marketing fresh made tortillas.  Sales of his fried chips, however, continued to grow, to the point that expansion was necessary.  In 1988 he moved his business to the Strip District, opening the grocery store on the corner of Penn and 20th. Four years ago DiCio purchased the building and installed his long awaited tortilla making equipment.

In addition to fresh corn or flour tortillas, chips, salsas and guacamoles, Reyna sells home-made tamales, enchiladas, burritos and empanadas. If you prefer to prepare your own, everything you need is available in the store –from fresh chiles and herbs to authentic Mexican meats and cheeses. The shop has hundreds of other hard-to-find imported products and, of course, a huge selection of colorful piñatas!

Just last weekend, Reyna Foods hosted the first annual Pepper Farm Festival at DiCio’s White Oak Farm in Allison Park. The “incredible” turnout is further testament to DiCio’s excellence at preparing traditional Mexican food and having fun while doing so. Also in the works for Reyna Foods is a sit-down subterranean restaurant, and the possibility of a small winery. Stay tuned to In The Strip for more information as it develops.

Reyna Foods is located at 2031 Penn Avenue. For more information please visit their website and Facebook page.

Photo credit: Casey Brown

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