Dominican cuisine is a fusion of recipes and cooking styles that have been passed down from generation to generation with flavors and recipes similar to foods found in Latin American countries with Caribbean influences.

One of the cores of Dominican cuisine is the spice bouquet, sazon, which is a combination of spices and herbs, sautéed until the spices release their bounty. Another base mixture is a sofrito, which incorporates mashed garlic, salt, thyme, parsley, finely diced onion and green pepper, along with cilantro, tomatoes, tomato paste and vinegar. Many Dominican dishes are prepared using these two vibrant and fragrant mixtures.

The cooking is simple, but the flavors of Dominican dishes are anything but, with an explosion of tastes offering up varied layers and levels of flavor and spice culminating in a unique and inviting food experience. For those seeking these fresh, flavorful Dominican dishes, head over to Villa Verde restaurant at 2601 E. 10th St., convenient to East Carolina University and on the bus route for easy access, and now a new location at 2247 W. Arlington Blvd close to Vidant Hospital.

Owners are Yordanys (Jay) and Eridania (Eri) Bastardo. Yordanys immigrated from The Dominican Republic on May 26, 1999, and arrived in the United States at 2:44 p.m. He transplanted to New Jersey and eventually moved to Greenville. He saw a need in the community and had a desire to bring Dominican food into an area that didn’t have that style restaurant.

They started with a food truck on Aug. 7, 2012, opened the 10th Street store on Aug. 7, 2015, then opened their new location on Aug. 7 this year. Their food truck just won first place in The Best of Greenville 2019 competition. Coming to a country with so much opportunity has been a blessing, Jay said. “We are small, family-owned business that is focused on serving our community rather than just making money off of our community.”

Jay’s favorite part about running a restaurant and making great food people love is seeing the joy on faces and the community supporting him. “I love impacting people for the better. Villa Verde is an extension of our faith and who we are as individuals and our food is just a tool used to help show people that community is important,” Jay says.

They serve a variety of authentic Dominican food from bowls, sandwiches, wraps and entrees. Bestsellers include the Yaroa which is a Dominican treat that starts with a base of french fries layered with richly seasoned strips of pork, chicken or beef and topped with melted cheese.

They added menu items last year that include chickpea soup, Dominican paella (with no seafood), roasted garlic grouper, filet mignon medallions, Vila Verde salmon, churrasco skirt steak, and veggie lovers asopao, which is a hearty Dominican gumbo-style rice stew flavored with various authentic spices with your choice of meat. Some of the dessert choices include fried cheesecake and pineapple rum cake, just to name a few.

For Dominicans, lunch is the most important meal of the day. Enjoy a traditional lunch fare at Villa Verde by choosing a build-your-own Villa Bowl. Start with a base that includes rice, quinoa, or Dominican salad, then select a protein. Some options include steak, grilled or rotisserie chicken, grilled pork, beans, or pernil which is slow-roasted marinated pork.

Next, add up to three toppings. Choose from cherry tomatoes, seasoned corn, plantain chip crumbs, shredded carrots, pickled onions, avocado, cilantro, pickled red cabbage, raw red onions, grilled red and green bell peppers, chickpea salad, or pickled beets. Then finish with a hot sauce, a cilantro and lime sauce or the signature Dominican sauce, which is made with a variety of spices along with mayonnaise and ketchup.

I selected one of these yummy healthy bowls opting for yellow rice as my base, pernil as my protein, roasted corn, pickled cabbage, and chick pea salad, which has chopped cucumbers, cilantro, onions, olive oil and a bit of salt. This dish was a color explosion of taste. I added the Villa Verde sauce on top for extra flavor. You get a warm, hearty bite from the yellow rice with a red beans paired with smokey and earthy pernil pork which has been marinated for over 24 hours and then roasted for nine hours.

The bowl delivers a juicy, tender pork paired with warm seasoned sweet corn, a bright vinegar pickled bite from the cabbage, a fresh herbal back-note from the cilantro and then fresh notes from the chick pea salad. The flavors offered a layered and well balanced experience. Every bite welcomed a new experience. You can go vegan, gluten free, keto or any direction you want because there are over 2,200 different combinations for their Villa bowls.

My last stop on this international food train was the Cuban sandwich, one of their most popular items. This dreamy number is made with seasoned pork shoulder with a slice of juicy ham, melted Swiss cheese, mustard and crunchy pickles in-between Cuban bread. I paired mine with two traditional Dominican sides, the fried yucca and fried plantain. The sandwich has all the makings for a dream vacation to flavor town and there is nothing better than the flavors of pork, the tang of mustard paired with crunchy dill pickles and melted Swiss cheese.

For those who haven’t eaten fried yucca, its taste is similar to a deep fried potato skin. Yucca is also called cassava and is a root vegetable that has numerous health benefits and is packed with Vitamin C which can combat viruses and strengthen your immune system. The fried plantain is the cousin to the American banana. It caramelizes when fried offering up a smooth, soft inner filling that has natural sweetness that made for a great end to my food tour.

Villa Verde is available for catering or reserve their food truck for your next charity event. They are open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. For more information call (252) 689-6005, email them at info@myvillaverde.com, or check out their website www.myvillaverde.com to see the full menu.

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329.9572.