The Flavors of Argentina
by Ashli Urano
Located inside Cibo Kitchens at 7511 Main St., Stefania’s Empanadas is a haven for those seeking a taste of Argentina. With an unwavering passion for cooking and a deep connection to her cultural roots, chef-owner Stefania Vito’s empanadas easily transport Texans to the streets of Buenos Aires.
Vito grew up in Bellaire, a small town north of Baltimore, after her parents moved from Argentina to the United States in their early 20s. Being a part of a family where Italian traditions were intertwined with her Argentine heritage, Vito spent quality time as a child creating in her grandmother’s kitchen.
My grandparent’s house had a kitchen in the basement, as well as on the main floor. I spent countless hours in the basement kitchen, with my grandmother, cutting out cookie shapes and putting chocolate chips on them,” Vito reminisced. “We also made ravioli from scratch. Sometimes we would make up to six hundred raviolis! My friends were outside playing, but I wanted to be inside baking with my grandmother. She and my mom have both influenced me in the world of cooking.”
Vito’s excitement continued as she helped her relatives at their Italian restaurant, which instilled a deep appreciation for the restaurant industry. Throughout her teenage years, she gained valuable experience working as a hostess, server, food runner and much more.
While attending the University of Delaware, Vito fully immersed herself into learning all there is to know about culinary arts. Pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Industry Management, Vito spent three years of intense culinary arts training, along with two years of being required to work for a hotel.
“I wanted to have a comprehensive understanding of both the culinary and business aspects of the industry,” Vito explained. “I wanted to know the ins and outs of a restaurant; but also wanted to have a clear understanding of accounting and finance.”
Armed with her college degree, Vito pursued a career in the restaurant industry after graduation. Starting as a bartender at a speak-easy concept restaurant in Delaware, she was soon promoted to assistant manager. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought unforeseen challenges, and Vito found herself without a job due to mandatory restaurant closures.
Feeling homesick, Vito returned to Maryland to be closer to her family. She began working at Rec Pier Chop House inside the Sagamore Pendry Hotel. It wasn’t long before the restaurant temporarily closed due to the ongoing pandemic.
Vito realized it was definitely time for change. “I felt a strong need to be doing something with my culinary skills,” she explained. “I decided to turn my empanada recipe, which I had been making with my mom since childhood, into a business opportunity.”
After sharing on social media that she was selling homemade empanadas, Vito received an overwhelming response. Within minutes, she received over 40 orders, which led her to explore the idea of turning her concept into a full-fledged business. With the support of a friend who provided commercial kitchen space, Vito began selling her empanadas online with delivery.
As the demand for her empanadas grew, Vito’s business expanded to include catering events. She was also a part of the highly successful Jerkfest, at Bellefonte Brewing Company, where customers eagerly waited hours for a taste of her Argentine empanadas. The positive response fueled Vito’s determination to pursue her culinary dreams further.
Wasting no time, Vito opened Stefania’s Empanadas three days after moving to Texas in 2022. Located in a commercial kitchen on Main Street in Frisco, Vito offers a diverse menu of 15 different empanada fillings and five delectable desserts, allowing customers to experience the flavors of Argentina firsthand.
“Empanadas are like handheld pockets of goodness,” Vito said with a smile. “We offer traditional Argentine fillings, such as beef, hard-boiled eggs, and green olives, as well as unique combinations like cheese with creamy corn. There are recipes using golden raisins, which is very traditional in Argentina. The spices we use are different than what most people have ever tasted.”
Stefania’s Empanadas primarily operates through delivery service (15-mile radius) and a pick-up option. Vito also holds pop-up events at the commercial kitchen, where customers can dine in to enjoy a taste of Argentine cuisine.
As Vito continues to share her culinary vision with the people of Frisco, she hopes to inspire others to follow their dreams. “If you enjoy cooking and have a genuine passion for food, you will never make the wrong choice by pursuing a culinary career,” she explained. “The hospitality industry offers endless opportunities and allows you to meet a lot of cool people. Push yourself to explore what you love.”
Ashli Urano is a freelance writer obsessed with competitive tennis, true crime and her Goldendoodle named Sadie Kireina