Celebrate National Paella Day at Rincon Criollo

Easter happened to fall on March 27 this year. Did you know that March 27 is also National Paella Day? Make a trip over to Huntington Station’s newest hot spot where it’s paella day every day.

One of the many things I love about writing for Edible Long Island is that I meet all kinds of people who recommend amazing places to eat. Back in December I interviewed Karen Durka from Fetch, a dog boutique, about her organic dog biscuit line. We eventually got to talking about human food, and she mentioned this great new Cuban restaurant on Jericho Turnpike near Route 110 in Huntington Station. Durka spent several years living in Miami, and she claims Rincon Criollo is the real deal. She knows Cuban food, and she said it’s the best. I was told that their paella was authentic, and that you need to call in your order an hour before you plan to arrive at the restaurant.

Since National Paella Day was approaching, I thought it would be a perfect time to check out Rincon Criollo. The restaurant and bar is small, festive and busy. English and Spanish are spoken throughout the restaurant, and it’s definitely worth the wait for the paella. My husband and I started out with a great drink served in large, round tumblers. The Rincon Express features Crop Harvest Earth Organic Cucumber vodka, elderflower liqueur, pineapple juice and lime juice. It was very light and so delicious. It paired perfectly with an order of the most fabulous, crispy plantains served with a raw garlic and olive oil drizzle. We also ordered the Cuban antipasto that featured Spanish sausage, a delectable roast pork, olives, ham and Swiss cheese. While we waited for the paella to cook, I was greeted by Rudy Acosta one of the owners in the family-run business. He told how his grandparents opened their first restaurant in a small neighborhood in Havana in 1950. By 1976 they came to the United States and opened Rincon Criollo on Junction Boulevard in Corona, Queens. Six months ago they opened the Huntington Station restaurant, and it has proved quite a successful.

I asked Acosta if there’s a difference between Cuban paella and Spanish, and he said there is.

“Our version is very similar to Spanish,” he said. “Ours is a moister version, almost like a risotto because we use a shorter grain. It is the original recipe my grandparents made at their restaurant in Cuba.”

Acosta led us to our table, and a huge steaming pot of paella soon arrived. It was a delicious blend of creamy rice, red and green peppers, chorizo, chicken, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, lobster and peas. It was wonderful! The best part is that the price is also right — just $41.95 — and it can feed four to six people.

After dinner we were served doncellita — angel kisses — dessert shots made of crème de cacao and evaporated milk, finished with a maraschino cherry on a mini skewer.

“This is my grandparents’ tradition,” said Acosta. “They served this drink to every customer after every meal as a way of saying thank you.”

Family tradition and paella continue to live on at Ricon Criollo. It’s definitely worth the trip to experience it.

Ricon Criollo is open seven days a week from noon to 10 p.m.