RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — CBS 17 is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by recognizing the history, culture and influence of Latinx and Hispanic communities.

It runs Thursday, Sept. 15 to October 15.

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in North Carolina, Executive Chef Kevin Ruiz always had a love for food.

“Being Puerto Rican, we have always grown up having big meals with families,” said Ruiz. “Cooking is just part of what we do in general.”

Ruiz’s passion for cooking developed in his late teens after backpacking across Europe.

“That experience overseas kind of brought food and travel and everything full circle for me,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz has worked in some of Raleigh’s most popular restaurants over the years. Ruiz’s experience led him to his own restaurant called Bendito.

Bendito means blessed in Spanish.

“So, for us I think it was the perfect name because we felt blessed to have the opportunity to do this and bring this concept but at the same time it’s uniquely Puerto Rican,” Ruiz said. 

Bendito opened in Raleigh four months ago, dubbed a modern Puerto Rican joint inspired by family recipes.

“I always say if you miss your grandma’s food, this might not necessarily scratch that itch but if you miss your grandma, I think that coming here, those flavors and kind of what we bring to the table gets you that same feeling but in a new more modern way with local fresh ingredients,” Ruiz said. 

Speaking of what Bendito brings to the table, Ruiz named a few must-try dishes. 

“On the small plates, we are doing a take on gnocchi from yautia,” Ruiz said. “Do a Spanish style marinara, Manchego cheese, we use local mushrooms from Fox Farm.”

“We do pork belly empanadas with sofrito and Manchego inside. Our papas rellenas are made with chorizo that’s locally sourced,” Ruiz said. “Local snapper, our hand-cut rib eye is delicious.”

For Ruiz, it’s all about incorporating his experience in all different types of cuisine.

“Puerto Rican food isn’t just mofongo and tostones and alcapurrias but we have a lot to offer,” Ruiz said. “Not just in the diversity of things that are on the island but a lot of the similarities that we enjoy here can easily translate to Puerto Rican food and those flavors.”

You can call it a taste of the island with a twist.

“When people come here, I think the vibe and the space and food speaks for itself,” Ruiz said. 

Raleigh Magazine recently named Bendito one of the top 25 best restaurants in Raleigh.

Click here to check out the menu and reserve a table.

Bendito is located at 2330 Bale Street, Suite 112.