Zaragoza Deli & Grocery: An East Village home for Mexican family recipes

NEW YORK – Though the unassuming Avenue A storefront might look like an ordinary bodega, Zaragoza Deli & Grocery is anything but typical. 

Beyond snacks and sodas, you’ll find Mexican delicacies handmade by Maria Martinez, affectionately called “Mama” by her customers.

In the narrow space beside the register, she chops cilantro and onion for fresh guacamole, prepared to order. 

“We clean every single bean. Everything is done by scratch,” her son Ruben Martinez said. 

She even fries her own tortilla chips. 

“They’re way crunchier,” Ruben said. “You’ll tell the difference.”

Maria opened the business with her husband Pompeyo in the year 2000, naming it after Zaragoza de la Luz, the small Mexican village where they grew up.

“They met each other in my parents’ village, and then—somehow, someway—life brought them together back in New York City,” Ruben said.

Before finding their permanent East Village address, they had been building the business out of the back of their Ford Taurus, selling imported Mexican products from borough to borough. These days, they work alongside their son, selling items like dried peppers, hot sauces, and packaged frozen treats from Mexico alongside their homestyle dishes. 

“That was my dream, to open a small business here,” Pompeyo said.

Pompeyo—aka “Papa”—credits more than two decades in business to the relationships formed at Zaragoza.

“I try the best with my customers,” he said. “I try to respect everybody.”

Regulars return for burritos or enchiladas, while neighbors stop by to check in.

“I guess we’ve been here so long, you get to meet a lot of the customers and just talk,” Ruben said.

For Ruben, the most meaningful part of the job is the chance to give his parents a kiss each morning. 

“That’s a blessing,” he said.

Zaragoza Deli & Grocery
215 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009
(212) 780-9204

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