BY BRADLEY HAWKS
It’s Friday at the Falchi Building, and that means a bold new menu of ceviche from the team that opened their stand in the Food Box last month.
Mimi and Diego may have been running their lunch counter, Don Tapas, for just a month — and they may have even gotten engaged just two months ago — but their story goes back even further by nearly two and half years.
The lovers met while they were line cooks at William Hallet in Astoria, where they worked the brunch shift together for one and a half years. Turns out poaching eggs is a surefire recipe for success.
Though the two have amicably parted ways with their former employer, they carry with them much of what they learned. In fact, Diego still cooks for Mario Batali at Casa Mono when he isn’t preparing his own dishes. And the owner of William Hallet was even consulted for a tasting of the new tapas dishes. When it comes to the kitchen, it’s an all around love affair.
“Everything we do is made with love,” explains Diego. It’s the kind of love that the customers can taste. Striped bass soaks in a traditional Peruvian salsa creola of cilantro, onions, mandarin and lime. Shrimp and calamari take on ginger, star anise, yuzu and sesame seeds topped with wonton strips in a Japanese-Peruvian fusion known as Nekki. The leftover leche de tigre is just as delicious as the ceviche, so customers are encouraged to shoot the juice when finished.
Next is a plate called pan con tamate — literally bread with tomatoes — the first in a series of what Diego refers to as montadito, or a tapas-sized roll topped with anything. The next baguette is sliced open and stuffed with homemade meatballs, imported manchego and peppers. My personal favorite is loaded with plump slices of mildly spicy chorizo sausage, caramelized onions and piquillo peppers.
The aim of Don Papas is to offer savory morsels, tapas-style, from around the world, and this couple has nailed it. Mimi is from Venezuela, while Diego moved here from Columbia in ’99. The two have gathered a refined collective palate along the way, as well as a respect for fresh, locally sourced goods.
“We use only the highest-quality ingredients, and we love to support local businesses,” explains Mimi. The bread is custom-baked from Rollo Mio in Maspeth, and the meats come from Despaña in Woodside. “We have a passion for bringing people together to try new and amazing things” — things like their tortilla Española, which is a delicate omelet with garlic, onions and potatoes topped with a smear of aioli dulce made from roasted garlic poached in sweet sherry wine.
Everything at Don Tapas is tiny, affordable, and tasty. Now that’s the kind of meal you will want to sink your teeth into.
Food Box at The Falchi Building
31-00 47th Ave., Long Island City