By Sally Deering
Eighteen months ago Chef Ed Cotto, Jr., and his wife Maria discovered a little nook on Varick Street in Jersey City and turned it into ME Casa, a divine little restaurant where the star is traditional Puerto Rican cuisine served in grand style. Cotto, who was born and raised in Brooklyn and spent much of his childhood in his family’s native Puerto Rico, has a special ingredient he adds to all his dishes: he calls it heart and soul.
“I’m a little disturbed Latin cuisine hasn’t elevated,” Cotto says on a recent afternoon as he prepares for the evening dinner crowd. “I went to Puerto Rico a couple years ago and not only didn’t they change their physical décor, it was the same dishes I had 20 years ago. Puerto Ricans have been content selling Puerto Rican food to Puerto Ricans. My challenge is to sell it to people of other cultures. Roast pork is roast pork, how do you make it differently? ”
The dining room, red-bricked lined with tables covered in white linens, is intimate and warm with Latin music
playing softly in the background. It’s a BYOB restaurant and Cotto encourages his guests to bring their own wine or beer to complement his menu, which offers select traditional Puerto Rican dishes by Cotto.
“My boss is the people who sit here in these chairs,” Cotto says. “Good food and hospitality, it has to go hand in hand. I want my customers to connect.”
Cotto offered a visitor a few ME Casa signature dishes to taste like the Mofongo Al Pilon, mashed green plantains and garlic topped with beef (shrimp or chicken) stew which was very tasty. The beef in the stew was tender and the gravy had some really nice flavors. Another delicious house specialty is the Pernil Asado, traditional marinated pulled pork. A real standout is the Alcapurias, fried mashed green banana and plantain Continue reading ME Casa (Su Casa) Shining a Spotlight on Fine Puerto Rican Cuisine in Jersey City