Thursday, December 24, 2015

We're adding Cuban roast pork, wild shrimp to our Christmas menu

Cuban Sandwich master Belarmino Rico, 76, at the plancha, the heated grill that transforms an ordinary ham, pork and cheese sandwich into a hot, crispy Cubano.

On Wednesday, Rico checked the pork he roasts for five hours in a pizza oven at La Pola Restaurant, 5400 Palisade Ave., West New York. Today, in an annual holiday ritual, he will be waiting on hundreds of customers who will flood into the small luncheonette to pick up Christmas orders -- including whole butterflied pigs, ribs and hams, plus all of the Cuban side dishes.


On Wednesday morning, when we pulled into the tiny parking lot of La Pola Restaurant in West New York, we witnessed the calm before the storm.

Belarmino Rico, who justly deserves the title of "King of the Cuban Sandwich," was roasting pork and waiting on an occasional customer in preparation for today's onslaught.

As my wife enjoyed a hot, crispy Cuban Sandwich or Cubano and I sipped a cafe con leche, Rico explained that he had stopped taking orders for Christmas.

Today, three generations of his family and his loyal employees are greeting hundreds of customers who come in to pick up whole pigs, roast pork, ham and ribs, which will be displayed on racks and tables.

They'll also take home such Cuban dishes as congris, rice cooked with black beans; yuca with garlic, chicharrones or pork rinds, and a tortilla Espanola, a Spanish potato omelet. 

Rico named his Cuban sandwich shop for La Pola, the small town in Spain where he was born before he emigrated to Cuba.

We had a prior commitment today so on Wednesday, we picked up roast pork for our Christmas dinner on Friday.

On Wednesday, La Pola Restaurant was experiencing the quiet before the storm.

At La Pola, a Cuban Sandwich is made with a 12-inch section of water bread filled with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, moistened with a garlic sauce called a mojito and heated until crispy in a press.

La Pola's own Plaintain Strips are delicious and low in salt.
La Pola, on Palisade Avenue and 54th Street in West New York, is cash only.
Wild Gulf Shrimp are on sale today at Whole Foods Market in Paramus.

Going wild for shrimp

The roast pork from La Pola Restaurant in West New York is for the meat eaters in the family.

This morning, I went to Whole Foods Market for another main dish, Wild Gulf Shrimp, which were on sale for $14.99 a pound.

That's about what Costco Wholesale charges for farmed Black Tiger shrimp from Vietnam. Customers are told nothing about how they are raised.

On Friday, we'll also have a wild Red King Crab Salad dressed with Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, seasonings and fresh chopped cilantro.

Side dishes include mashed Kabocha Squash and Organic Carrots, Organic Quinoa with Garlic and a salad of Organic Spring Mix. 

Whole Foods Market in Paramus has the best fresh seafood counter in North Jersey. One of the employees, left, gladly deveined the 3 pounds of wild shrimp I asked for.

As I waited for the shrimp to be deveined, I munched on samples of cheese, nuts and dried olives.

These bunches of Organic Cilantro are about twice as big as the conventional cilantro sold at the nearby Paramus ShopRite for 99 cents.


  1. How is his pork raised?

    1. Here is La Pola's phone number, though I don't know when it will be open again after the Christmas Eve frenzy:

      (201) 867-6028


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