|El Nuevo Bohio (The New Hut) is located at 791 E. Tremont Ave. The holiday season is the restaurant's busiest. (Photo by G. Pinto)|
[Ed. note: this article appears in the latest issue of the Tremont Tribune, which it out on streets now.]
By FAUSTO GIOVANNY PINTO
At El Nuevo Bohio, pernil is prince. It is also in high demand, the hands-down favorite among all who visit the Puerto Rican restaurant.
“If I don’t have pernil, these people will kill me,” jokes manager Roy Fernandez.
Patrons come from all over for the pernil or roast pork, which is served with your choice of a side, a piece of crispy chicharron (pork skin), and a side of mojito, a crushed garlic sauce. They flock there from the five boroughs, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and upstate New York, as did recent newcomer Dan Shapiro. This was the second time in two months that he’d made the trip down from Rockland County.
“The atmosphere here is very easy and the roast pork tastes better than any other place I’ve been to,” said Shapiro, who likes to add a plate of white rice and red beans as well as chicken soup to his order.
Shapiro isn’t alone in his observation. The Village Voice recently recognized El Nuevo Bohio as having the best pernil in city in their 2010 Best of Awards. Past visitors include Bronx-bred Rapper Fat Joe as well as former Major League baseball player Jose Valentin, Fernandez said.
The neighborhood establishment has been at the corner of East Tremont and Mapes avenues for about 30 years. It was bought from the previous owner by Fernandez’s uncle, Ramon Fernandez, eight years ago. Surprisingly the Fernandez’ are from the Dominican Republic.
They also own another location, El Bohio Tropical, at 20 Westchester Square.
The restaurant on East Tremont Avenue displays Puerto Rican pride. Two walls are painted with murals depicting island life. The tables have been outfitted with pictures of famous Puerto Rican people and locations, such as Daddy Yankee, a reggaeton star, and Fort San Felipe del Morro.
While business has slowed due to the recession, like almost any other place, El Nuevo Bohio always seems busy. As early as 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning, customers were already trickling in. During the evening rush of the weekends, there’s often a wait for tables.
December is by far their busiest month of the year with customers sometimes ordering 24-pound trays of the famous pernil for holiday parties.
Pasteles, which are similar to tamales and often filled with green plantains, pork, and olives, and wrapped in parchment paper, are also in high demand as a traditional holiday treat.
Other top menu items include Bistec Encebollado (Spanish style steak with onions), Arroz and gandules (yellow rice mixed with pigeon peas), and mofongo (a dish made from fried green plantains mashed together with bits of pork skin).
A typical plate at the restaurant will set you back between $8 and $11 with enough to share between two people or take some home for leftovers.
The hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., but chefs are employed around the clock cooking up the pernil.
Steve Rodriguez, a resident of Southern Boulevard and a regular for three years, comes for a taste of home.
“They cook just like in my country. It’s like being back in Puerto Rico,” he said.