Dough devotion: Empanada Kitchen returns to its La Jolla beginnings

three crispy and fresh empanadas from empanada kitchen restaurant in La Jolla

Filled with flavors both local and South American, Empanada Kitchen has expanded to La Jolla, opening Dec 22 at 613 Pearl St.

What began as a booth at the weekly La Jolla Open Aire farmers market in 2016 quickly found the recipe for local success, taking orders for the filled-dough pastries that soon outpaced the company’s capacity.

Though many global cultures have their own take on empanadas, those offered by Empanada Kitchen, which operates four locations now, are made in the typical flavors of co-owner and company founder Matias Rigali’s native Argentina.

The menu includes Argentine staples like beef, chicken, Caprese and sweet corn & basil, along with nods to local preferences like bacon & egg, mushroom & goat cheese and apple pie.

“My idea was always to make very traditional Argentine empanadas,” said Rigali, who tangoed over to restaurant ownership from a career in marketing and advertising once he moved to San Diego in 2015. 

Empanadas “are such a comfort food,” he said. “I grew up eating [them].” 

Moving to the United States to be with his now-wife, Rigali knew he “wanted to do something different, [following] one of my passions: food, cars and wines.” 

Rigali opened his farmers market booth after making empanadas for his local friends, encouraged by their love for his creations. 

He then established Empanada Kitchen’s first physical location in Downtown San Diego at the end of 2017. 

“We did very, very well,” Rigali said.

The company’s popularity rose with the advent of Empanada Kitchen’s second restaurant in North Park in 2019, along with a pop-up in Little Italy some time later.

A few months ago, Empanada Kitchen began operating out of a central kitchen, which makes the empanadas and is cleared to distribute the products to other restaurants.

Rigali is now happy to now add a La Jolla pin on his map of eateries. “La Jolla is one of my favorite places,” he said. “I wish I had opened sooner.”

On the menu:

Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

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