A family’s quest for the American dream
By Karen Hendricks | Photography by Casey Martin
You don’t have to be Italian or a native New Yorker to love pizza. It’s simply one of those foods that everybody loves, regardless of culture or heritage. And, just like the melted cheese across the top of a big pizza pie, Gettysburg’s newest spot for pizza is a melting pot of culture.
Blessing Pizza is the latest in a long line of entrepreneurial businesses launched by the Huinil family. Located at The Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg’s food court, the restaurant started turning out pies in February. Along with the standards like pepperoni pizza, you’ll find fresh veggie pies, Hawaiian and Buffalo chicken pizzas on the menu. But there are a few surprising flavors too, like pickle pizza and birria pizza.
Wait, what exactly is birria pizza? In a blend of cuisines, birria is Mexican beef that’s a little sweet, a little savory and just a little bit spicy too. And to understand why it’s on the menu, we need to trace the Huinil family’s journey.
The American Dream
“The U.S., for us, was a place to have the American dream,” says 33-year-old Ermegildo Huinil. His father Mariano left Central America in 2002, followed by his four sons. As the oldest, Ermegildo was the first of the brothers to arrive in America.
“When you move from one place to another place,” says Ermegildo, “sometimes you find different people, but we found nice people—really, everyone was like …” and with his arms outstretched, he demonstrates the way his family has been embraced. “We’ve been feeling blessed here.”
After working several years in supermarkets, Mariano opened a small grocery store of his own in 2015. Tienda La Mexicana, at 103 York St. in Hanover, was the first successful step on the family’s entrepreneurial journey. The second one was on wheels.
La Bendición food truck hit the road in 2017 as a vehicle for two iconic Hispanic dishes: tacos and pupusas. While many are familiar with Mexican tacos, fewer people are familiar with pupusas, a Salvadoran staple. Similar to pancakes, they are flat cornmeal griddle cakes with stuffing inside—spinach and cheese or beans and cheese, among many tasty combinations.
All four brothers, plus a cousin, were the driving forces behind the food truck’s success. La Bendición was routinely parked in Hanover, with excursions to special events.
But it wasn’t just food they were delivering. The very name of their truck also delivered a message.
“La Bendición,” Ermegildo explains, translates into English as “the blessing.” And, after two years of operation, the Huinil family was ready to accelerate their entrepreneurial journey.
“We decided Hanover needed something else—we saw opportunity. No one was doing Salvadoran food,” Ermegildo says. In 2018, Blessing Restaurant opened its doors in Hanover, offering Mexican favorites as well as Salvadoran dishes.
“The seasonings are very different,” Ermegildo explains. “And we try to stay true to each one.”
So this brings up the question—
is the Huinil family Mexican, Salvadoran or both?
“My family is not from Mexico or El Salvador,” he says with a smile. “My family is from Guatemala.” And after a moment of surprise and laughter, he adds, “Guatemala is in the middle, between Mexico and El Salvador,” which makes his family uniquely positioned to bring both cuisines, authentically, to America.
Although it was tough to operate a restaurant through the pandemic—even a restaurant with “blessing” in its name—the family envisioned a second location. Ermegildo describes himself as the family’s “idea man.” With a blueprint for success in Hanover, the family replicated Blessing Restaurant in Gettysburg. The Steinwehr Avenue eatery has been open for about two years.
“Two things are important to us,” he says. “Everything is fresh—every order comes out as soon as it’s done. And the other is service—we love to help people. That’s the way.”
There’s something for everyone on the menu, from empanadas to tostadas and tamales, flautas and fajitas, plus seven varieties of quesadillas. Panes Rellenos is a Salvadoran “stuffed bread” sandwich filled with chicken, sauce, tomatoes and lettuce. Platanos Fritos are fried plantains, served with eggs, refried beans, tortillas and avocado.
Blessings are even on the menu: Blessing Mix Fajitas include chicken, steak and shrimp. Want to taste a little bit of everything? Mega Blessings is a huge platter of a variety of dishes.
And you could say the Huinil family’s blessings continue to multiply. With a grocery store and their Hanover and Gettysburg restaurants flourishing, Blessing Pizza is their latest venture.
“We started from the bottom, from having nothing. But our family is staying together, and we are feeling blessed about that,” says Ermegildo. “And opportunity is everywhere—it all depends on you to take action. I like to serve people and give them good food—that’s my thing.”
The Outlet Shoppes at Gettysburg’s
1863 Gettysburg Village Dr., Gettysburg
226 Steinwehr Ave., Gettysburg and
3 E. Walnut St., Hanover