La Parrilla

La Parrilla
(631) 509-4848, Port Jefferson


La PaRrilla was a surprise. It opened quietly last March where Costa De Espagna was. Owned by Vince Grillo, a first time restaurateur, it was at various times billed as a Spanish-American, Spanish-Latin American and Spanish-Mexican restaurant. Chef Juan Alvarez was described as a veteran kitchen commander but I couldn’t find out where he was previously. I didn’t come across any La Parrilla Restaurant reviews in the daily newspapers that cover the Island nor hear any word-of-mouth about it.

All of which caused hesitation when I found out about the restaurant, even though I was curious about what I would find there. That was because it’s a new restaurant, with a first-time owner that was changing its identity. It probably hadn’t been reviewed and was rarely—if ever—mentioned by foodies. I thought there must be a reason for this absence of visibility and recognition. It seemed as though a visit to La Parrilla (“the grill”) was in order.

Despite a few initial reservations (a basic nondescript dining room and warm but dry bread), La Parrilla proved to be a rather good restaurant with large portions of interesting, tasty food at manageable middle-of-the-road prices. (The Monday through Wednesday prix fixe three-course dinner with a glass of wine for $28.95 seems especially attractive.)

Speaking of outstanding deals, the lush, rich shrimp bisque for $4.95 couldn’t be better. Its shrimp broth, laced with a dab of cream and sprinkled with some tender, medium-size crustaceans is served in a large soup bowl, not the expected little cup. The large $11.95 version must be a meal in itself. The ensalada con aguacate is a dinner plate-size salad with an eye-catching fanned out display of avocados and unannounced but welcome mangoes surrounding a clump of mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, strawberries and cucumbers in a raspberry vinaigrette ($10.95). The remaining two starters were rather standard empanadas stuffed with beef, potato and rice accompanied by avocado and picante salsa ($9.95) and alochofas a La Parrilla. The latter is fresh grilled artichoke hearts powered by noteworthy garlic and lemon-infused mayo dip ($11.95).

Main events, with a choice of one or two sides are nicely distributed among fish, meat and chicken possibilities. The baby back ribs in a tangy barbecue sauce deliver the required soft, fall-away texture ($20.95) and the grouper filet perched on some light green sauce was as fresh as if it had just been caught off the Florida coast ($18.95). Pollo Espanol featured two thin slabs of moist chicken breast under a tangle of mushrooms, peppers, chorizo, onions and green beans in a brown demi-glace ($18.95). The hands down entrée leader was camarones rellenos; Jumbo shrimp stuffed with and resting on a crabmeat and baby shrimp mash atop a bed of rice enhanced by nicely nuanced lobster sauce ($22.95). A pitcher of powerful red sangria that’s sweet but not cloying is appropriate with these dishes and it worked beautifully ($25.50).

Among the housemade desserts (all $7.95) was a firm, silken flan; a tiramisu that’s neither Spanish nor Latin American but was particularly satisfying; very ordinary fried ice cream and a towering layered chocolate mousse cake.

Photo by Paul Kim /

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richard jay scholem

Richard Jay Scholem practically invented the Long Island restaurant culture through 800+ reviews of the region's eateries both on radio and in print over the last 30 years. He is a former New York Times Long Island Section restaurant reviewer, has contributed to the Great Restaurants of...magazines and Bon Vivant, authored a book, aired reviews on WGSM and WCTO radio stations, served on the board of countless community and food and beverage organizations, and received many accolades for his journalism in both print and broadcast media. He is currently available for restaurant consultation. Reach him at (631) 271-3227.