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Dining Out: Review of Negrita's Restaurant in New Britain

By Steve and Lisa Alcazari   

Thursday, October 28, 2010 6:00am

Roast pork and blood sausage, served in a teeny-tiny place in New Britain

Pork, rice and beans: mmmmmm.

ork, rice and beans: mmmmmm.

**1/2 Negritaís Restaurant

80 West Main St., New Britain, (860) 224-0680,

You really could walk right by Negritaís in New Britain without even seeing it. Lisa and I actually did just that. We had the address and everything, but somehow we missed it. Maybe it was a low-blood-sugar moment. The little Puerto Rican restaurant is just a sliver of a place, wedged next to a wireless store. It looks very much like it could have once been a Subway sandwich shop, with the small counter and prep area at the back now housing a steam table and some cases for other showcased foods. The space is borderline claustrophobic, but not without a kind of rundown charm. Glass roasting pans and an assortment of steel trays and plates displayed a tightly stacked spread of food ó ribs, roast chicken, fried potato balls, beef patties, fried plantains, roast pork, what looked to be blood sausage and a solitary plate of mounded mofongo.

The feng shui is definitely funky in there. Customers approach the counter and are hemmed in at the left by the wall. As more patrons arrive, that can leave you sort of pressed into a queue headed toward the narrow dead end of the room. And matters are made slightly worse by there being ó at least on our visit ó only one dude manning the front of the shop. So if heís busy ó as he was ó assembling a take-out order, or ringing up a check, there can be a real feeling of stasis. You can find yourself trapped in a slow-service eddy. Itís an island-time kind of vibe. But more people show up and as you stand there eying the menu on the wall or the goods on display you find yourself anticipating goodness. Why else would people line up and wait at such a place? As youíre thinking this, a stately woman with her hair tied in a green net walks slowly to the front of counter carrying a single plate of mofongo to replace the one thatís just been removed and served. Itís not exactly clockwork, and itís certainly not rushed, but thereís a kind of bemused regal poise to her demeanor that suggests she knows sheís bringing the goods back from the kitchen and to rush and fret and enact that so-common picture of restaurant frenzy just wouldnít be right.

Meanwhile, youíre getting hungrier. In my case, I was able to eventually focus my cravings on one of those plates of mofongo (pounded green plantains and garlic and other good stuff) and a half coil of that blood sausage (morcilla). I wasnít really sure that the mofongo was meant to go with the morcilla, but I knew I had Lisaís roast pork to slide into the picture if need be. The man behind the counter asked if I wanted gravy to go with my plate (Iím assuming he meant for the mofongo), and I said sure, picking chicken from among the other choice of beef. Before loading the black curl of sausage onto my plate he retreated to a narrow counter at the back of the restaurant and added a ring of lettuce and tomato slices, dressed with olive oil, around the mofongo.

My chicken gravy may have been schmaltzy, but it went perfectly with everything. The mofongo was like a cross between mac & cheese, chicken & dumplings and some other deeply comforting carby goodness. The garlic comes through in surprising ways, almost more of a lingering afterglow than in a sharp attack on first taste. The blood sausage was surprisingly mild. Iím used to a very protein-heavy, almost metallic bite to blood sausage. This was more mellow, with the rice filler possibly soaking up that end of the flavor spectrum. I often order morcilla and find that I canít finish the plate, just because, well, one tends to only want so much blood sausage. But that wasnít the case this time. I was ready for a second round.

The roast pork was juicy and salty and porky, with an appealing outer layer of black pepper and seasoning. Thereís skin and fat to contend with here, so if you wince at the thought of all that, then you might want to opt for the chicken. Or the octopus salad, which is another specialty there. The truth is, the beans and rice will probably fill you up, and the other stuff will just be extra flavor.

If youíre making the trip, consider calling ahead and grabbing take-out, you can decide if you want to go back to savor the scene.

On behalf of Negritas Restaurant & Staff, We would like to thank all our clients for making us number one.

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