Friends Matthew Sanchez and Jeff Alvarado are joining forces to bring a modern twist on old-timey cocktails — while putting Peruvian cuisine firmly on Huntington’s foodie map.
Sanchez and Alvarado met while working at Prime in Huntington and their shared love for food and killer cocktails inspired them to create their own restaurant — The Last Word at 13 Wall St. in Huntington.
“He and I are very beverage-focused, so we are trying to elevate the cocktail program here,” Sanchez said. “We want to make it a hub for people who just enjoy trying different cocktails and wines.”
Sanchez grew up in the restaurant industry, starting out alongside his dad who ran several food service establishments.
This past February he bought The Beach Pub in Centerport, then Alvarado approached him about the vacant storefront that last played host to Almarco Italian Grill, which operated for over a decade.
Alvarado traces his earliest passions for hospitality to helping host family gatherings for special occasions at his house growing up.
At 16 years old, he got his start in the restaurant industry as a host at the now-closed Bertucci’s in Melville and worked his way up from there.
Bartending for parties pushed Alvarado to educate himself on cocktails and start networking with others in the industry.
“I got lucky meeting people who were into the science behind drinking, like infusing, rapid-infusions,” he said. “I always had a vision that I would have my own place someday.”
Fast-forward to this summer, the pair is just waiting on final approvals for The Last Word, which they are looking to open sometime this fall.
Sanchez said using his past experience as a sommelier — which means wine steward — he wants to create an environment for customers to be curious and not be afraid to taste something new.
“We are trying to keep it fun, we are not stuffy guys,” Sanchez said. “Especially with wine, it can be a little intimidating, as a ‘som’ I would come in, keep it humble, make a few jokes to disarm people, and make it fun — it’s alcohol at the end of the day.”
The cocktail program will feature classic cocktails with a new flair, Alvarado said.
“The Last Word” is actually the name of a gin-based cocktail from the Prohibition era.
Alvarado said they want to introduce “spin-offs” of a cocktail like this, for example, a “Mezcal Last Word.”
In addition to its cocktail program, The Last Word will be the only Peruvian restaurant in Huntington, the owners said.
Alvarado, who is Peruvian himself, is taking his favorite dishes from childhood and creating a tapas-style menu.
It’s Peruvian food “that’s approachable,” Sanchez said. Some of these dishes include ceviche, a red quinoa bowl, Old Bay shrimp tacos, jalea (fried seafood platter), and lomito saltado (stir-fry skirt steak).
“One of my favorite things about going out is tapas-style menus, where it’s fun to share and it keeps everything social,” said Alvarardo. “I love Peruvian cuisine and it’s definitely growing in popularity.”
Encouraging patrons to go beyond their comfort zones of drinking and discovering new food favorites is the main goal for the two business partners.
Alvarado said it’s thanks to the employee for pushing this “new wave” of elevated drinking. He also feels restaurants, especially during the pandemic, have raised their standards of food and drink.
“I just want to keep poking at the bear,” Alvarado said.
Continue to follow greaterhuntington.com for updates on The Last Word’s opening day.
Top: Owners Matthew Sanchez (left) and Jeff Alvarado (right) outside of their new restaurant, The Last Word in Huntington.