Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we will offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems). Find our previous Staff Favorites here. 

I’ve never actually been to Argentina, but when I walked into The Argentos Empanadas & More shop in Silverthorne for the first time in April, it was exactly what I imagined cafes in South America might be like.

If you go

The Argentos Empanadas & More is open Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 273 Summit Place, Silverthorne; 970-368-6512. the-argentos-empanadas-more.business.site

A fútbol game was playing on the television above the stacked Malbecs and Italian whites. A light-blue-and-white jersey displayed in a shadow box across the room caught my eye as the smell of homemade empanadas emanated from the kitchen. (I learned later that Lionel Messi’s iconic signature is scribbled across that jersey.)

Of the 13 types of empanadas on display, I opted for chicken, a classic, with a side of chimichurri. Steam escaped the perfectly golden crust as I tore a piece off to take a bite. To be honest, I wasn’t anticipating the depth of aromatic spices nestled inside.

I’m as inquisitive about my food as a kindergartener. I would normally ask, “What’s in this?” “Who made this?” This time, I just kept eating my empanada. I was content.

Bold flavors of chile peppers and onion meld together like the abrazo of tango. It’s comfort food, but not the kind I grew up with. “Next time I’m in town, I’ll grab a box of these to-go,” I thought as I double-checked for crumbs.

A few months after my discovery, I decided to make the Interstate 70 trek from my home in Denver to Silverthorne once again. This time, it’s to meet the owners of Argentos Empanadas and More.

Leo Tartufoli, a friendly Argento (Spanish for Argentinian), is behind the counter. His wife, Andrea,  is on the patio with the couple’s granddaughter. Leo asks the girl in Spanish to move to the other table for us to talk, moving her rollerblades to the side for us to sit down.

The couple emigrated from Buenos Aires to Los Angeles in 2000 to start a new life. In 2007, they moved to Utah, where they opened their first restaurant, The Tango House.

“It was a different concept. We had parrilla, milanesa and gnocchi, all the food that you find at your house,” said Leo. “Not in my house,” was my immediate response, and we all laughed.

Both Leo and Andrea come from families of immigrants. Andrea’s nonna (grandma) taught her to cook. And for some reason, that fact subtly enhances my perception of the shop, as if each empanada carries the culture and history of Andrea’s life. In a way, they do.

“For immigrants, the food …,” said Leo, and Andrea finishes his sentence, “is very important.”

He explained it as a bridge between neighbors, an easy-in when you’re the one who stands out. There’s not a single food item that comes to my mind that I’d share with neighbors in a foreign country. “Hey, wanna try a donut?” doesn’t sound so eloquent, although they are one of my favorites.

To this day, Leo and Andrea still encounter visitors from Utah. “Oh, I remember your lomitos!” Andrea said, recalling what former customers said when they accidentally stumbled upon The Argentos & More while on vacation.

The Tartufolis lost their Utah restaurant during the financial crisis that began in 2007. They moved to Colorado in 2010 for a job at Sigma Foods, where Leo still works to this day.

Change is a concept this couple seems to love. Every year, they take advantage of the slow season in May by renovating part of the café. The first year, they installed the garage door that opens up to the patio. Next, they remodeled the floors. In 2021, they renovated the patio. Next year, Andrea tells me she hopes to winterize it because she loves to look out at the snow-capped mountains.

The empanadas are cooked in a 400-pound pizza oven that Leo and Andrea unloaded themselves. Nonna’s spinach and béchamel empanada is one that Leo recommends, but the Chori Argento, a secret recipe made with Argentinian chorizo, is one to consider.

My personal favorite, the Fatay, is a triangle-shaped pastry stuffed with diced tomatoes and carne that’s been marinated in lemon juice for a few days. The empanadas are $4 each.

On the counter to the right of the register, you’ll find terere, a combination of orange juice and maté, the unofficial national beverage of Argentina. Above the refrigerated Quilmes are Andrea’s delectable desserts: flan, an assortment of cookies filled with dulce de leche, and a traditional roll cake called pionono.

Los argentos are finally living their American dream, citizenship and all. Their flavors and food, on the other hand are still 100% Argentinian.

The Tartufolis sent me back to Denver that day with a box of six labeled empanadas and nearly a dozen containers of chimichurri, jalapeño crema and a chipotle sauce. When I finally got settled in my car, I took a bite of the Fatay.

At that moment, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics from “Hamilton” played in my head: “Immigrants: We get the job done.”

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