The Making of the Pumas Torta at Tortas Neza

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The Making of the Pumas Torta at Tortas Neza

On a hot, sticky August day, St. John’s University English professor Steven Alvarez, who teaches a class on Taco Literacy, led us on an ultimate Mexican food crawl along Roosevelt Avenue in Corona and Jackson Heights, Queens. His first stop: the Tortas Neza food truck, helmed by Mexico City native Galdino Molinero and his wife, Lilia.

Here, we see exactly how Molinero assembles his signature torta, the Pumas, a gargantuan feat that weighs nearly two pounds and what some say is the biggest sandwich in Queens.

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The Tortas Neza truck, named after the owner’s old Mexico City neighborhood of Nezahualcóyotl (or Neza) — itself named after a famous Aztec poet-king — is parked near the corner of 108th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, Queens.

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St. John's University English professor Steven Alvarez (left) with Tortas Neza owner Galdino Molinero (center) and Alvarez’s friend (and Queens’ resident food expert), Joe DiStefano.

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Each of the 19 tortas on the Tortas Neza menu are named after Mexican soccer teams.

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But the signature is the Pumas, named after the Club Universidad Nacional soccer club in Mexico City (commonly referred to as U.N.A.M or Pumas); it's Molinero’s favorite team.

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Here, Molinero, fittingly dressed in a Pumas DHL soccer jersey, walks us through how to make his best-selling signature torta.

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First things first: Molinero spreads a thin layer of beans on the bottom of the sandwich, before adding lettuce. He gets his torta bread custom made at Vallecito Bakery in Jackson Heights.

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Then, eggs and bits of chorizo are whipped up together ...

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... before going on the griddle.

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Meanwhile, avocado is layered on, followed by spicy jalapeños.

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Chicken Milanese is fried to order ...

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... and then mounted onto the sandwich. This is the first of many meats to come.

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Mini sausage links are fried.

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The finished eggs-with-chorizo are added ...

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... which are then topped off with the sausages ...

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... which are themselves garnished with thin slices of ham and queso de puerco, or head cheese.

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A final mound of grated cheese tops it off. Molinero then “butters” the other side with mayonnaise.

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The Pumas torta is finally ready for the griddle ...

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... where it’s admired by all. (From left to right: Alvarez, DiStefano, and their friend, chef Irwin Sánchez.)

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The final pressing ...

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... and just like that, it’s done.

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We conquer and divide the torta among ourselves. Still, all five of us cannot finish it.

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Molinero with his wife, Lilia. They’ve been making tortas together for nearly two decades.

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Tortas Neza is but the first of Alvarez’s many stops for incredible Mexican food in Queens. Discover his ultimate guide to Mexican food in New York here.

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The Making of the Pumas Torta at Tortas Neza

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