NEW BRITAIN - Much like a mother on a weeknight with kids needing help with homework, spouses returning home from work needing a meal and pets running around, Brenda Torres juggles a lot at her restaurant but gets it all done.
To Torres, who could only spare a few minutes to talk about her restaurant, Criollisimo, while managing everything, that’s how her business is: it’s like family.
Located at 340 Arch St., the Puerto Rican restaurant serves all the traditional meals and has been doing so since 1989 for 28 years.
Large platters of white and yellow rice – with our without beans, mixed with chicken, pork, ribs, goat meat and ox tail are among the popular options the restaurant serves. Varieties of fish are also available, for those looking for healthier options.
There’s also fried sweet plantains, seafood salads and the traditional empanadas and cassava available, to compliment a selection of Goya sodas and other South American beverages.
“It’s fresh, from scratch, all the time,” said Torres on what sets her restaurant apart from others, in addition to cleanliness, service and experience of her restaurant. “The best rice and beans in Connecticut, that’s what people say.” A visit to the establishment, for dining in or take-out, will also treat patrons to Puerto Rican heritage items through athletic memorabilia and religious items lining the walls, which echo with Latin music.
The restaurant features a full staff of over 10 kitchen workers and helpers.
“She works with us and we work with her,” said cook Mayda Rodriguez, who’s been with her for nine years, the longest consecutive stretch of her cooking career.
As a way to keep with the times, the restaurant recently signed up with UberEATS, which allows individuals to place an order with the restaurant and have it delivered all by a few taps in an app. The restaurant can also take orders via a website at taptoeat.com.
“Good price, big meals,” said Torres. “That’s how we do.
Torres also makes sure to get involved with the community through catering. While regularly helping schools like Trinity College with food programs, and sponsoring the New Britain Bees, this past weekend she was a vendor at the Puerto Rico Festival on High St. in New Britain, and the Hartford Capital City Pride parade.
“If there’s a certain price desired, she works with you,” said Rodriguez.
“I want to go to the one on High Street because there aren’t a lot of vendors, they need people,” said Torres.
The restaurant recently redid the front patio to accommodate outdoor seating and earned the restaurant the Beautify New Britain award in 2016 as a result. In addition to providing live music entertainment twice a month Torres said she is planning to take her restaurant on the road with a food truck she hopes to open next year.
“The restaurant has a strong and dedicated following and is a true destination point in our city,” said Mayor Erin Stewart when she awarded the restaurant. “We are fortunate and proud to have them in New Britain.”
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.