Blue Back Square Business Elmwood

Award-Winning West Hartford Restaurant Opening New Location after Prominent Blue Back Square Business Closes

The space at 51 Isham Road will soon be home to Coracora. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

After a final celebration of Cinco de Mayo in West Hartford, Rosa Mexicano closed the doors to its Blue Back Square location for good on Sunday night, but the space will soon be home to the flagship location of award-winning Peruvian restaurant Coracora.

Coracora owners, COO Grecia Ludena (left) and CEO and chef Macarena Ludena serve empanadas to Gov. Ned Lamont, former DECD Commissioner Alexandra Daum, and other officials celebrating their James Beard finalist status. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

By Ronni Newton

It might sound cliché, but the saying “When one door closes another one opens” will certainly ring true in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square and there’s reason for excitement as the announcement of the closing of Rosa Mexicano this week is concurrent with the news that Coracora – an award-winning, family-run Peruvian restaurant serving made-from-scratch food – will be taking over the space.

Ceviche Mixto at Coracora. Courtesy photo

Coracora plans to open a new flagship location at 51 Isham Road in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square later this year, they announced Tuesday.

Coracora was named for a small town in the mountains of Peru. The family-owned business has risen from humble beginnings when Hector Ludena and Luisa Jimenez, who immigrated from Coracora, Peru, opened their restaurant 13 years ago in what was a vacant McDonald’s at 162 Shield Street in West Hartford, developing a loyal customer base with their authentic house-made dishes made from high-quality ingredients, including some imported directly from Peru.

Everything Coracora does remains focused on the three pillars they have identified as essential – “high-quality ingredients, a warm and welcoming family-like experience, and the best customer service.”

Chafes with shrimp from Coracora. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

Now owned and operated by sisters, chef Macarena Ludena and Grecia Ludena, the daughters of Hector Ludena and Luisa Jimenez, Coracora has continued to receive acclaim not just in the town or in Connecticut, but also nationally, and has become a culinary destination.

Their authentic and vibrant Peruvian cuisine earned Coracora a “good” review in the New York Times several years ago, but in even more accolades continue to flow.

La Patrona at Coracora. Courtesy photo

In 2024, the family-owned Peruvian restaurant was, for the third year in a row, one of 20 restaurants nationwide named a semifinalist in the James Beard Foundation “Outstanding Restaurant” category – and in 2023 the restaurant was one of just five restaurants in the U.S. to earn the distinction of being named a James Beard finalist. Both the restaurant, and its chef, Macarena Ludena – who was previously a semifinalist for “Best Chef: New England” – first garnered national recognition with the announcement of their inclusion as semifinalists in 2022.

Chef Macarena Ludena (left) and Grecia Ludena are the second-generation owners of West Hartford’s Coracora restaurant. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

In December 2023, Coracora was also honored as both the 2023 Best Restaurant in Connecticut and in Hartford County by the Connecticut Restaurant Association at the annual CRAzies awards.

Earlier in 2023, Coracora was formally recognized by the Government of Peru for its dedication to furthering Peruvian culture through gastronomy. Consul General of Peru Elvis Tuesta was one of the guests, along with Gov. Ned Lamont and other state and local officials, to attend a celebration at Coracora in April 2023, and said they are a great ambassador of Peruvian food and a sign of optimism for the Peruvian community.

Coracora chef Macarena Ludena (right) and co-owner Grecia Ludena. Courtesy photo

“We’re excited to grow Coracora and become an integral part of West Hartford’s vibrant Blue Back Square,” Grecia Ludena said in the announcement Tuesday. “The upscale, vibrant scene there will perfectly complement Coracora’s new flagship location, and we can’t wait to enhance our existing and future customers’ experiences.”

The existing location on Shield Street will remain open as a fast-casual restaurant, Coracora confirmed.

Coracora will maintain their Elmwood location in the Shield Street Plaza as a fast-casual spot but will open a flagship restaurant in Blue Back Square. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“Coracora’s flair for serving up authentic Peruvian cuisine within an upscale, stylish atmosphere has made it a household name in the West Hartford community,” said Paul Brandes, Principal with Brand Street Properties. “We couldn’t be more excited for Blue Back Square to be home to their new flagship location as we grow our lineup of unique dining, retail, and entertainment offerings.”

Lomo Saltado, Empanadas, and Canchitas at Coracora. Courtesy photo

There was great anticipation in the community when Rosa Mexicano, which built its reputation in New York City, where the first location opened in 1984 when Mexican restaurants were still a novelty, opened its West Hartford location 18 months ago, but although they did not provide a reason for closing, Rosa Mexicano also shuttered a location at the Burlington Mall this year.

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