BY HELEN KLEIN & MEAGHAN MCGOLDRICK
If one thing is clear from the stellar food at Bay Ridge’s Campo Bello Restaurant, it’s that it’s time to pay a visit to the Dominican Republic.
The modest storefront restaurant – which was doing a steady business during our recent visit — prepares a host of Dominican specialties that are fresh and flavorful, generously portioned and reasonably priced.
Once we tasted the food, we weren’t in the least surprised by the crowds at the sparkling eatery, which debuted in August, 2014. Food like this will keep us coming back, too.
We sampled several of the eatery’s specialties, beginning with the Empanadas ($1.50), crispy crusted deep fried hand pies, whose slightly sweet pastry contrasted delightfully with the spiced ground beef filling.
The Pico de Gallo ($3-$12, depending on portion size) combined chunks of tomato, onion and soft, perfectly ripe avocado spiked with cilantro and lime. Yum!
The main dishes we sampled were quintessential comfort foods.
The Pepper Steak (Bistec en Salteado, $9.50) combined tender strips of beef, colored peppers and onion in a thin, tomato-based gravy. It’s served with a choice of side dish, including Fried Tostones (green plaintains) which were crispy and not in the least oily ($2.75 as a separate side order).
As dramatic to look at as it was delicious, the Mofongo de Camarones (mashed fried green plaintains with shrimp, $12) came to our table redolent with garlic. The shrimp were large and tender, and the mofongo supremely satisfying.
We also sampled a Cubano ($7.50, a pressed sandwich filled with tender and succulent roast pork, ham, melted cheese and slices of pickle, which balanced out the richness of the meat. This sandwich was so large, it easily could have been a meal for two with a side dish.
We concluded our meal by sampling three different desserts – two versions of Tres Leche cake ($3 per portion) and Flan ($3), all of which were fresh and sweet, though our favorite was the Tres Leche cake made by the sister of manager Marisol Paulino which was moist and dense, with a creamy icing.
That Paulino’s sister is involved was certainly no surprise. The restaurant, and its older sibling on Staten Island are family affairs, said Paulino, owned by her husband and his siblings, and staffed by relatives and friends, whose love for each other mirrors their affection for their native cuisine and their commitment to their diners.
“Every day,” Paulino noted, the chef comes in at 6 a.m. and begins cooking so everything is fresh, using the traditional flavorings of cilantro, onion, garlic and pepper “with a delicate hand and a lot of love. A little of this, and a little of that. It’s a magic touch.”
That magic touch extends to the restaurant’s operation. For that, Paulino said, there are three ingredients: “Great food, great customer service and great employees.”
That’s a recipe that Campo Bello has clearly mastered.
CAMPO BELLO RESTAURANT 2
9128 Fifth Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11209
718-680-7888 or 718-680-7688
Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Free local delivery from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. with $15 minimum order