We had a fabulous little…well not so little impromptu family-style dinner last night at Pio Pio on the Upper West Side! It wasn’t just that I hadn’t eaten all day, but the fragrant Peruvian roasted chicken and calamari, pollo empanada appetizers were super mouth-watering and extremely fulfilling.
This particular location, according to Derrick, is the most spacious of the four in Manhattan. So, first came the sangria. It’s sweeter than your traditional red wine, so to the alcohol-intolerant be wary. We had to wait a bit as a party of eight, since it was a bustling Friday evening, plus Jay and I were late (sorry!). But once seated, service was pretty prompt.
Before anything else, they placed a couple cups of their special aji sauce. Tina and Caroline raved about this and it sure didn’t disappoint. This light green sauce is apparently a secret Peruvian condiment the restaurant won’t reveal (but does sell for $5 upon request). From what I’ve read in the blogosphere, it’s a blend of Peruvian chilis called aji amarillo and “black mint.” Whatever it was, it went well with everything!
We had the fried calamari and empanadas de pollo to start, and of course instead of using their accompanying sauces, go with the aji instead! These appetizers were pretty standard, but definitely got us ready for the rotisserie meal to come. Out came platters of juicy (or as Jay would say, water-filled) roasted chicken, marinated Peruvian style. The combo came with avacado salad, french fries, rice and beans, and fried yucca! The chatting definitely stopped for a good 45 minutes as soon as the plates hit the table. I was a big fan of the fresh avacado salad, which offered a good balance to the plethora of flavors. The chicken, of course, was the main attraction, savory and fresh out of the oven.
With the eight of us, we ordered two of these meals. And even with four guys, we walked away with leftovers filling one of those large shopping bags, like the ones you carry out of Crate & Barrel when you buy an espresso machine. It’s a lot of food.