La Casa Latina is an all-purpose grocery and convenience store that serves the food of Puerto Rico. That includes well-seasoned roast pork that is pulled into soft shreds and nuggets to serve as an entree with rice, plantains, and a salad. The same good pork is star ingredient in a powerhouse Cuban sandwich, a.k.a. Cubano, which is made on a pressed-flat hot loaf that also contains ham, cheese, pickles, mayonnaise and mustard.
While Cubanos are available in most Latin-American restaurants — indeed, now in many gringo places — it’s only a Puerto Rican kitchen that makes a big deal out of mofongo. And here it is a big deal, a big wonderful deal. This native dish is made of fried green plantains that are mashed with copious amounts of garlic and larded with plenty of chicharrones (pork skin), formed into a dense mound, and served with an accompanying ramekin of buttery herbed sauce suitable for dipping or pouring on. So right on the side of pork, stewed chicken, or steak (some of La Casa Latina’s weekday specials), mofongo is potent. It is available in a somewhat less forceful version, known as trifongo, which includes ameliorating sweet plantains and cassava.
Among side dishes, yellow rice is a standout. The rice itself carries an agreeable oily savor, and here it is packed tight with beans, green olives, and red peppers to become a downright dazzling taste experience.
Full meals are accompanied by plantains. You will be asked if you want green or sweet. In this context, I love the latter, which are cooked until soft and caramel colored.
What La Casa Latina serves is not home cooking. But it tastes like it. And the experience of eating here is as friendly and hospitable as if you were a welcome house guest.