John Romero serves up a menu of both traditional and adapted Dominican foods at his new Punta Cana Dominican Grill in downtown Huntington.
But he also provides a side dish of education, helping customers learn what Dominican cuisine is and isn’t.
For example, diners used to the heat of Mexican cuisine could be surprised to learn that traditional Dominican food isn’t spicy. Many of Romero’s dishes have been marinated for 24 hours, adding flavor and eliminating the need for spices, Romero said.
“Seventy-five percent of our customers have never had Dominican food before,” Romero said, who decided to expand into Huntington when he noticed a lack of Dominican food options. He opened his first restaurant in Westbury and plans another expansion into Rockville Centre in the coming months.
But his menu doesn’t stop with the traditional. Appealing to American tastes, his menu includes such different dishes as empanadas stuffed with mac and cheese. The goal is to educate and intrigue diners, Romero said, offering them “something they’re used to but different.” Romero said empanadas are especially popular with customers at the Huntington location, which opened June 8.
The restaurant at 376 New York Ave. has about 16 seats but Romero said most customers take out or have their meals delivered.
Customers can make their own meals, creating Cana Bowls from rice, a main protein, a side and sauce. By making their own bowls, Romero said, customers become more familiar with the options that make up a meal.
Romero said popular items on the menu are pernil, a heavily marinated roast pork, yellow rice and pidgeon peas and sweet plantains, and mofongo, green plantains in a garlic sauce, a dish with roots in Puerto Rico.
Next up for the new restaurant is a vegan and vegetarian menu, responding to requests from customers. Romero also offers catering services.
Romero’s plans don’t end with expansion to Rockville Centre. At 30, he has big plans to take his restaurants national, noting that there’s no national chain specializing in Dominican foods. He got his start as a youngster, learning to cook from his mother and grandmother. At 18, he went to college, dropped out to open a restaurant in Levittown, realized he needed to learn more about business and eventually returned to the field, opening the Westbury Punta Cana in 2015.
Early reviews on Yelp are quite positive.
For years I’ve been saying that Huntington Village needs casual, authentic Latin food that isn’t over-priced and, ladies and gentleman, it’s finally here.
At this moment I’m contemplating going back out and getting another Nutella banana empanada. But seriously, we spent $25 on a dinner for two people and we are FULL and very happy”
The food is absolutely delicious. I had the Chicken Stew + white rice & red beans bowl with a side of platanos and a chicken empanada. i recommend all of it.”