SPECIAL TO THE HERALD
NEW BRITAIN - Trying to get Brenda Torres to sit down and talk is like trying to capture a butterfly in a bottle.
The owner of Criollisimo Restaurant is up, she’s down. She’s grabbing a broom and sweeping the floor. She’s talking to her chef, Josue Lopez Pagan, about an incoming order. At last, she grabs a chair and pulls it closer to a dining room table.
“Now, where were we?” she asks.
Torres has reason to be busy. There’s always something to be done. Her restaurant, which opened on Arch Street in 1992, has won several awards serving the Barrio Latino community.
Since Criollisimo - which, according to Torres, means “authentic” in Spanish - received a Beautify New Britain Award last year from the city, the restaurant has attracted more diners, many from out of town. Torres last year invested $2,000 in extensive renovations to the exterior, adding a new façade, signage, awning, improved exterior lighting and an enclosed outside dining area. The restaurant seats 60 people and caters local events.
Perhaps more important than awards, the eatery has attracted diners of various ethnicities and locations.
“Polish people from Broad Street come here for our pork,” Torres said. “We’ve had people from Hartford who come for our shrimp and yellow rice.”
In an online review, Phil J. of Hartford called Crillisimo’s mofongo (a Puerto Rican dish with fried plantains as its main ingredient) and the shrimp in Creole sauce “very good (with) big portions. The flan and tres leche dessert (sponge cake soaked in milk and covered with whipped cream) was also yummy.”
In bestowing the beautification award last September, Mayor Erin Stewart said the restaurant has become a destination in the city. “Criollisimo’s renovations have added a new flair to the neighborhood and are contributing to the resurgence in our Barrio Latino,” she said.
Bill Carroll, the city’s business development director, agreed.
“Brenda has done a great job in facade and signage work that stands out to all pedestrians and her loyal customers,” he said. “In keeping with the goal of Barrio Latino, she is leading the effort in beautification and attracting additional restaurants on Arch Street.”