Donjito, olé

This Nuevo Latino restaurant in Mamaroneck brings together Mediterranean and Mexican cuisine to create food that pleases all the senses.

It’s been only a few short months since Donjito opened its doors at 122 Mamaroneck Ave., in Mamaroneck, but the new eatery has quickly become a local hotspot.

Serving up “Nuevo Latino” dishes influenced by Spanish, Mexican and South American cuisine, Donjito is helmed by the same owners of taco place Popojito in Scarsdale. At the new restaurant, the owners aim to create an eatery that “celebrates Mediterranean classics melded with Mexican sensibility.”

Owners describe Donjito’s aesthetic as a Spanish wine cellar and it’s easy to see why. Exposed brick lines one wall of the restaurant, while faux-wooden panels on a black background dot the other. Wired shelving units play host to a range of wines and liquors, including the local Still The One gin, distilled in nearby Port Chester. With soft lighting, dark wood tables and leather chairs, the interior seats 60, while an outdoor patio has seating for another 30 diners.

The menu by chef Carlos Rodríguez, who has worked behind the scenes at restaurants that included Mezcla in Gramercy Park and Bistro Versailles in Greenwich, features seasonal vegetables and locally sourced proteins.

A full bar gives general manager and cocktail guru Sue Vitiello room to experiment. The Mamaroneck Thai is a crowd favorite, she tells me, with coconut rum, pineapple and blood orange juice. The popular drink is deliciously sweet and served in a tall, tiki-themed glass. For the fall, a new range of drinks will be rolled out, including a chipotle mango margarita, which packs both a slight smoky flavor and a serious spicy kick. 

The food menu, a majority of which is gluten-free, offers food to share, from chorizo flatbread with queso cotija to signature Donjito wings with pickled jalapeños and red chile tzatziki sauce. Mussels are served with charred tomatoes and roasted garlic, while blistered shishito peppers are dusted with chili powder and sea salt.

An order of tuna tostadas piles seared big eye tuna on a crunchy tostada with roasted red peppers, coulis and avocado corn pico de gallo. Other small-plate options include crisp octopus with balsamic onion jam and red chili salsa; gazpacho with heirloom tomato, cucumber and queso fresca; and seared garlic shrimp with a corn mousseline and guajillo salsa. An eye-catching beet salad is fresh and flavorful, featuring beets prepared three ways with spiced jicamas, pearl onions, jalapeño goat cheese and green pepper vinegar.

Loaded yucca fries are another favorite of ours, piled with smoky chorizo,  jalapeños, tomatoes and sour cream in one of the few menu items that Rodríguez transferred over from sister restaurant Popojito.

Tacos can be ordered with chicken, slow roasted pork, wild mushrooms or Mexican Coke-braised short rib. If you have trouble deciding, a 10-piece taco platter lets guests select a range of options for the table.

We recommend the trio of grilled salmon tacos, topped with marinated cabbage, a mango habanero salsa and sprouts. 

“You never see salmon tacos,” Rodríguez tells me, adding that he hoped to give a unique spin to the traditional fish taco.

For the entrées, a poblano pepper is stuffed with Mexican cheese and salsa ranchera in one of our favorite sampled dishes, somehow managing to be both light and filling. In another dish, Paella Barcelona brings together a medley of chicken, chorizo, shrimp, mussels, octopus and saffron bomba rice.

Dessert lovers won’t be disappointed by the molten chocolate lava cake, pleasantly rich and served alongside fresh berries.

Beyond the flavors, Donjito gives diners a true feast for the eyes. Each dish is colorful, expertly presented and completely cohesive. 

Now open for lunch, the eatery also expects to expand into brunch territory later this year. Vitiello, a veteran of the Westchester restaurant scene, says Donjito is open for corporate dinners or private parties. Later this month, it plans to host a Halloween party, one of the first of what Vitiello hopes will become a series of public events.

Though the restaurant launched in July, the menu has already seen some changes. Gone are the duck enchiladas and a red snapper entrée. Rodríguez says the menu could continue to see changes in the future.

“We’re feeling it out,” he says. “We’re seeing what works.”

So far, we think the food at Donjito seems to work just fine.

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