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OUT TO EAT / Great dishes, drinks and people

A Puerto Rican flair

No matter where you find Puerto Rican food in Buffalo, the pastelillo remains pretty much the same. Seasoned ground beef, maybe cheese, in a fried turnover.

But Carlos Ruiz has been cooking up oddball pastelillo combinations for years, first at Tita Cafela's in Depew, and now at Kenmore's Big Vinny's (3289 Delaware Ave., Kenmore, 877-1980).

It looks like a standard pizzeria, but besides pies and pastas, there's mofongo, the Puerto Rican classic of fried plantains, bacon, garlic and rice. Plus a bevy of pastelillos, including BBQ pork, Jamaican jerk chicken, even dessert numbers like cheesecake with white chocolate.

Despite all those choices, it's the coconut curry chicken ($2.25) that turns heads. "I marinate the chicken with garlic and sazon seasoning overnight, then cook the boneless breasts in the curry sauce," of coconut milk, Jamaican curry powder and more, said Ruiz. "Then I shred it for the pastelillos."

"Check out our menu," said Ruiz, who runs the place with Jason Smiraglia. "We've got a lot of surprises."

-- Andrew Z. Galarneau