Mi España, Featuring Spanish Street Food, Has Opened In Princeton Shopping Center
PERFECT PAELLA: “We offer authentic Spanish street food, and it is very popular. Paella is our core business, but everything is in demand, and we already have regular customers,” reports Mi España owner John Procaccini. Shown is one of the restaurant’s favorite dishes — Paella Mixta with grouper, shrimp, chicken, chorizo, and bomba rice.
By Jean Stratton
Fans of Spanish food are delighted that they can now enjoy it in the Princeton Shopping Center.
Mi España, featuring authentic street food from Spain, opened in February and customers are lining up waiting to sample the variety of Spanish specialties.
“We are set apart because there is really no one else like us here, ” says owner John Procaccini. “Our chef, Jose Diaz, is Spanish, and not only does he create our wonderful dishes, he was the inspiration for Mi España. We specialize in authenticity, and we import the rice for the paella from Spain, also the cheese, and special spices. We will also include locally-sourced products seasonally.”
The cozy cafe-like setting is very appealing, and customers stream in and out all day long. It seats 23 inside and 30 outdoors during warm weather. Takeout is also very popular.
This is the first Spanish restaurant Procaccini has introduced. It is part of his Gretalia Hospitality Group, which now has 12 restaurants, including three in Princeton. They range from pizza to barbecue to Italian trattorias to the popular Pj’s Pancake House.
In Princeton, Trattoria Procaccini, Pj’s Pancake House, and now Mi España offer something to please everyone’s palate, and there is also another Pj’s in Kingston.
All of these restaurants — three more are in the planning stages — keep Procaccini very busy. And he loves it.
Indeed, he is no stranger to hard work. As a boy, he and his brother Tino helped out in their father’s landscape business. When he was 24 and Tino 21, the brothers opened La Principessa Ristorante in Kingston in 1991, and then continued to add new restaurants in the area.
New and Different
One led to another — and another — and another, and eventually John and Zissis (“Z”) Pappas founded Gretalia Hospitality Group. Tino continued to focus on Italian fare, especially pizza, including Tino’s Artisan Pizza Co. in Kingston and other locations.
“I never thought I would have this many restaurants and also such diversity,” says John Procaccini. “It really just evolved, and I also have always liked to try something new and different.
“It is about the diversity and how this has been successful. We have something for everyone’s taste. And the customer loyalty is amazing. I can see the same person at Pj’s in the morning, at More Than Q for lunch, and then at the Trattoria for dinner. We just have so many regular customers.”
And now he is seeing the same loyalty with customers at Mi España. “We already have repeats and people are really coming in all day long. We have gotten off to a great start.”
Customers like all the choices, he adds, and they can certainly find an inviting and full selection of authentic Spanish street food.
“Street food is a very big deal right now,” reports Procaccini, and we are happy to offer it here at the Shopping Center. The Shopping Center has a lot to offer — its location, convenience, and lots of parking. It has a lot of memories for me too. When I was a boy, I used to come to the Dairy Queen all the time, which was right on the corner where we are now (near Dunkin’ Donuts).”
The menu includes something for every taste. Bocadillos (sandwiches), paellas, tapas, soup, dessert, and beverages.
The bocadillos (traditional Spanish lunch sandwiches) are served on European-style baguettes with mixed green salad or spicy patatas bravas. The selection includes Serrano ham, with Manchego cheese and tomato; Chorizo, featuring grilled chorizo, Manchego cheese, and tomato; and España, with thinly sliced Queso de Tetilla (Spanish cheese) and sweet quince paste.
Paellas are the traditional Valenciana Bomba rice dishes, and include Paella Mixta with chorizo, chicken, grouper, and shrimp; Paella España, featuring chorizo, pork, chicken, and Portobello mushrooms; and Paella Vegeterania, with artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, yellow squash, zucchini, and red pepper.
Tapas are always popular, and especially at Mi España. Their abundant portions belie the word “appetizer.” Tortilla Espanola is the traditional Spanish-style omelette with potato, onions, and eggs. Spanish meatballs are hand-formed with beef and pork, served with Spanish-style marinara sauce.
Croquetas (dumplings) are served with a béchamel sauce, with Serrano ham or chicken. Empanadas (turnovers) include beef, chicken, or vegetables; and Patatas del Chef are lightly fried potatoes tossed with chorizo and Manchego cheese served with spicy bravas sauce.
Soups include Caldo Gallego with cabbage, white beans, potatoes, carrots, Serrano ham, and chorizo; Sopa Mar, including fish stock with mussels, clams, shrimp, squid, and grouper; and Potato Leek, with leeks, potato, butter, and bacon.
One can finish the meal with Torta Santiago, Spanish-style almond cake or flan, traditional Spanish-style custard.
Spanish KAS sodas and Vichy Catalan sparkling water are available, as is Cortadito, Spansh-style cappuccino.
“We always pay attention to detail and also to our presentation,” points out Procaccini. “Eye appeal is important, along with taste, and the presentation of our dishes is very appealing to the eye. Of course, our authenticity is a major priority, as is our customer service. We are very proud of our staff, and of Jose, our excellent chef. In addition, we now have openings for qualified people who would like to join us.”
Prices cover a range, with drinks from $3.50, desserts $8, soups from $8, tapas $9 to $12, paellas $13 to $15, and bocadillos at $14. The ample portions ensure that no one ever leaves hungry at Mi España.
Procaccini emphasizes his pleasure with the Princeton Shopping Center location and also the significance of taking part in community events. “We always become a part of the community we are in, and we contribute to many organizations and charities. Serving the people is very important, whether with our good food or supporting them in other ways.
“And now we look forward to introducing you to our traditional Spanish street food at Mi España, and invite you to experience our warm and friendly atmosphere.”
The restaurant is open seven days, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (609) 917-7927. Website: getforky.com.