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Prior to moving to Rhode Island in 2020, I was renting an oversized closet (yes, I lived in a closet) in a one-bedroom apartment in East Boston. Over time, this Boston neighborhood, which was once predominantly Italian-American, has become a hot spot for Hispanic and Latino immigrants and their families. When I lived there, it had one of the greatest food scenes, with Mexican, Peruvian, Colombian, and Salvadorian restaurants all within blocks of one another.
Recently, I found a whole new appreciation for one of Rhode Island’s tiniest cities for many of the same reasons (and flavors) I loved during my time in East Boston.
Central Falls is hosting their annual Restaurant Week from Friday, Aug. 26 through Sunday, Sept. 4. Nearly two dozen restaurants will feature lunch and dinner specials and the city is kicking it off with a salsa night (which is free) on Aug. 26 from 7 to 11 p.m. So in preparation, I met Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera for lunch recently at Sharks Peruvian Cuisine on Broad Street, to talk about the event - and taste what Central Falls has to offer.
Sharks opened within the last year by Oscar Valverde and his son Carlos, who also own Shark Lounge in Pawtucket. Rivera and I had a great view of the Blackstone River while we sampled authentic Peruvian dishes. I ordered their Trio Marino, which is ceviche de pescado, arroz a la Norteñ, con mariscos o arroz con mariscos y calamar frito (fish ceviche, Peruvian-style paella, and fried calamari). Their hot sauce was bright green and had the ideal level of heat to mix with the lightly-battered fried calamari.
Next door to Sharks is Royal Fried Chicken, which Rivera said has been a total hit. They also opened recently, and have a brightly lit interior with a nearly all-glass façade — so not exactly what you picture when you think of a fried chicken place.
For dessert, we headed to Beirao, another Broad Street stop that blends Portuguese and Cape Verdean cuisine. It’s a tiny café with a wooden bar, light pink walls, flags hung at the entrance, and where longtime servers sit at the tables to chat with their regulars. We ordered flan (if you’ve never had this Mexican custard dessert, know that if you like caramel, you’ll love this) and a passion fruit mousse (mousse de maracujá) to split.
A 1.2-square-mile majority-Latino city, Central Falls is part of a nearly 40 percent spike in the state’s Hispanic or Latino population that has brought new businesses and restaurants that cater to local residents. Central Falls was hard-hit by the pandemic. Yet even during a weekday, I noticed the city was lively. It’s high time the rest of the state took notice of the under-appreciated food scene here.
If you have suggestions or need a recommendation, shoot me an email at Alexa.Gagosz@globe.com.
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