Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination has generated lots of observations. Not the least of which come from her 2001 Olmos lecture recalling, among other things, that as a Puerto Rican woman she loved pigs feet and beans.
While some prefer to offer conjectures on her judicial temperament, I head straight to Allegheny and 2nd to Freddy and Tony's Restaurant. As I see it, experiencing the potential justice's comfort food is part of my civic duty.
Freddy and Tony's history goes back to the '70s and it's about as difficult to parse as a legal document.
But here's what I got - Freddy is a past owner, Tony is around but looking toward retirement and his wife Dhalma Santiago is the owner of record.
Angel Figueroa, referred to as "the big guy" by someone on the phone, is the general manager.
Not to be missed on your visit are two Puerto Rican specialties that are fried balls with a ground meat surprise inside.
The Relleno de Papa ($1.20) is made with mashed potatoes but my favorite was the Alcapurrias de Yuca o Geneo ($1.20) which is made from the starchy tuber, the cassava.
Be sure to load on the vinegar and pepper condiment found on the table on both.
Most delicious and an astonishing value was the Muslo de Pollo ($1.30). One of my tasters marveled that this fried chicken leg was more like confit.
Figueroa says the secret is that the chicken is rubbed with the spices a day ahead and fried precisely at 375 degrees. And I'm guessing that it was fried in lard.
A dish that has all the earmarkings of a hangover cure is Mofongo ($2.50). The ingredients are plantains and fried pork skin all mashed together and the result reminded me of Latin matzo ball.
Caldo de Pescado ($1.50) is a plain fish broth that must have the same restorative powers as chicken soup. You may add tostones (fried plantains) or the mofongo to your broth but I like it all on its own. Its salty nature reminds me of miso.
Both the caldo and mofongo are served in classic wooden bowls and definitely go for the mofongo served with gravy.
Freddy and Tony's knows pork. And while you can order Pigs Ears ($4.10), there are other delicious and more common pig parts.
Freddy and Tony's version of the Cuban Sandwich ($6.35) offered lightly seasoned pork with ham served on chewy bread slathered with mayonnaise.
The Chuletas en Salsa ($9) or the pork chops with tomato salsa platter offered hefty pork chops on the bone, sauteed and then slathered in a sauce accented with cooked savory onions and a salty tang of olives. Platters come with plantains and a some iceberg lettuce.
This is not, for the most part, spa cuisine. And, there is an enduring question in my mind how a sunny island cuisine could be so bereft of vegetables.
Still, the lobster and shrimp salad ($25.15) came on a bed of lettuce, onion, pimento, and olives and was lightly dressed in a vinaigrette and was certainly in the category of lighter fare.
I should note that the Platano Maduro (fried sweet plantains) that came with the dish might not be considered health food. I do love maduro, however, these plantains could have been a little bit riper.
The desserts are made by an Italian bakery, go figure.
I found the Flan ($1.40) a tad rubbery in texture, but the caramel sauce would cover a multitude of sins so I'm considering slathering it on my hips.
I was disappointed that my favorite Puerto Rican treat, an insanely sweet rice pudding called Arroz con Dulce, was sold out. We tried the waitress' recommendation of Strawberry Shortcake ($1.95), which sufficed. The whipped cream frosting was studded with strawberries, and while the yellow cake probably came from a mix, it satisfied.
And while the Pina Colada ($3.60) was virgin, we almost didn't miss the rum. This refreshing bebida with lots of pineapple and sweet coconut could stand as dessert as well as a beverage. *