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Bob Garner: Villa Verde offers colorful, diverse menu

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Villa Verde's Seafood Paella.

Bob Garner

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Yordanys (“Jay”) and Eribania Bastardo achieved major success during a year of operating their Dominican food truck in downtown Greenville, thanks to extraordinary support from ECU students. When the couple added a bricks-and-mortar location in August 2015, the menu expanded significantly. Yet the “nachos-tacos-sandwiches” vibe that had set off a virtual Twitterstorm among their food truck fans was happily preserved. Win-win.

It will require quite a few visits to sample all the well-executed meat, poultry and seafood dishes representing cuisine from not only the Dominican Republic but also Puerto Rico, Cuba and, indeed, all Latin America.

Across the board, the restaurant’s deft seasoning tends toward mild rather than spicy. There is a delicious house-made hot sauce for the adventurous, but it’s ordered purely by choice.

Appetizers include several sampler platters, Empanadas and Queso Frito (fried cheese), but both Yaroa (pronounced “Jah-ro-ah”) and 3-pound Nachos are the most representative of Villa Verde’s popular food truck fare. With a foundation of either French fries or tortilla chips, both are similarly and appetizingly topped with Dominican-seasoned meat strips, peppers and onions and cheese sauce.

Among the house specialties, seafood paella is particularly attractive and appealing. Other solid, authentic seafood choices include whole red snapper with traditional Dominican seasoning, grouper and Caribbean-style shrimp. You can read about and consider trying Mofongo (mashed green plantains and garlic) and Chivo (stewed goat): both are terrific in my book.

Entrees represent multiple variations on a typical Dominican midday meal of red beans, rice and some type of meat or poultry. This repast is as commonplace as the patriotic fervor of the Dominican Republic’s citizens and engenders the same warm feelings — so much so that the meal is often referred to as La Bandera … the flag.

On Villa Verde’s menu, bone-in chicken is available marinated in spices and slow-roasted or crispy fried without breading. Pork comes to the table in delectable, deep-fried cubes, as grilled pork chops or, most notably, slow-roasted until it’s falling apart. Steak is marinated, sliced thin and grilled with bell peppers and onions. In my view, there isn’t a weak spot in this region of the menu, with the perfectly seasoned red beans and rice tying each of these dishes together beautifully.

Hint: If the fantastic, addictive pickled onions aren’t included with whatever you’re ordering, seriously consider asking for them to be added.

You should take particular note of the signature Dominican Avocado Salad, featuring house-made dressing … a blend of rainbow kale, red cabbage, shaved carrots and fresh avocado that’s admirably finished with chicken, shrimp, grouper or salmon.

Be sure to order the Cuban sandwich, featuring roast pork, at some point: it’s by far Villa Verde’s best seller. This roast is ordinarily served sliced, but Villa- Verde’s version is pulled pork at its succulent, flavorful best.

Over time, as you explore the array of choices at Villa Verde, you’ll probably also pick up on Jay and Eribania’s community involvement and outreach in addition to the business end of things. It’s practically as diverse as their menu.

Villa Verde

2601 E. 10th Street

11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday


Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker.

A Villa Verde Sampling... from Bob Garner on Vimeo.