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A Mérida restaurant makes a big move, to Phoenix

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A Mérida restaurant has moved to Phoenix, where Arianna Pared Villegas still proudly displays her Cuban roots. Photo: Courtesy

A colorful Mérida restaurant is Phoenix, Arizona’s latest import.

Arianna Pared Villegas opened Cocina La Negra in March. It’s hard to miss the pink, yellow, and green building that houses the newest Cuban restaurant in Phoenix, the local newspaper reported.

La Negra fits in well on 16th Street, this part of which is known for its vibrant murals, restaurants, and bars. One of the signs propped outside reads “Cuban Food,” with the flags of Cuba and Yucatán painted on it.

A portrait of Celia Cruz can be seen behind the protectores at La Negra in Phoenix. Photo: Courtesy

Mexican food is gone from the menu, but just like in Caucel, the cocina economica is still a one-woman operation for Pared Villegas.

Pared Villegas grew up and learned to cook in Santa Isabel de las Lajas, a town in Cuba. The restaurant’s name is a nod to her Afro-Cuban roots and her grandmother Josefa Gómez, who is of Congolese descent, the Arizona Republic reported.

Pared Villegas lived for more than a decade in Mérida, where the original La Negra served a mix of Cuban and Mexican food. Now she focuses mostly on Cuban cuisine.

La Negra in Caucel, a part of Mérida, before its big move to Arizona. Photo: Courtesy

The menu there changes regularly. “A little bit of everything” would be a plate of rice, salad, yuca, plantain, and portions of the day’s meat dishes. Recently the menu featured fried pork cutlet with onion, beef steak, and onion, or fricase de pollo, a Cuban-style stewed chicken.

Vegetarian offerings include boiled yuca served with a vegetable chimichurri medley on top. Depending on the day, Pared Villegas cooks boiled plantains or mariquitas de plátano, fried plantain chips.

If you’re in Phoenix, Cocina La Negra is at 4401 N. 16th St. Follow them on Facebook.

Source: Arizona Republic

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