>> Restaurant El Diez | Eat the World NYC

26 June 2019

Restaurant El Diez


Any drive or walk through Maspeth will show no shortage of pizza spots, most your standard New York City slice joints. Every once in a while an Italian-American is still running the show, but more often than not nowadays there are Albanians and more lately Mexicans behind the counter feeding New Yorkers their fix. NYC's "national dish" is probably the slice, but Maspeth would take it up a notch further and put it on their flag.

The address at this location was one of these places for a long time, before a new cuisine moved in alongside the pies. A few years back, El Diez was born, serving the small but growing Paraguayan community in Queens. The pizza oven still sits in the back and pizza is available by the slice, but this side of the business seems to be less of a priority now for both the owners and the customers.

Even the streets of Maspeth declare their love.

A new owner has taken over the space about five months ago and renovated, a brief chat with her made it sound like she had big plans for the restaurant. For now everything remains very casual and comfortable, service is friendly, and like often happens an "outsider" will constantly be asked how they are enjoying the foods. Paraguayan pride even for a short lunch.

If you have ever traveled through Paraguay, the country will leave an impression on you that is always through the lens of the Guaraní people. The culture of this indigenous group is still very strong in the country and the language still used. The foods are heavily influenced by Guaraní traditions and ingredients, and more often than not the names of dishes will use their language. When the grill is going and everyone is served asado, it may not seem different from Argentina, but the other items served before, during, and after these grilled meats and sausages is really what makes the cuisine its own.

A spread centering around mate cocido.

Yerba mate is popular in Paraguay like its neighbors, but a unique way of drinking it in the country is cooking it with sugar in a pan to make cocido, or mate cocido ($2, below). This "tea" ends up being pleasantly sweet rather than overly, and can be drank with milk although this is not required.

It is such a common order here at El Diez that they have a tank of it for self service.

Many Paraguayan dishes stand out from their use of manioc flour, made from cassava, rather than other flours. You will see many different types of chipa, a chewy, cheesy bread made from manioc with roots in Guaraní culture.

One outlying chipa is the chipa guazu ($5, below left), a very dense corn cake served with mate cocido as a snack or sometimes alongside asado. Whole corn kernels and grain are used in its production. Guazu, or guasu is Guaraní for "big" and this type of chipa is usually served in large format in a casserole dish.

Not entirely different but smoother in texture and using corn flour rather than grain is sopa Paraguaya ($5, above right and below), sometimes referred to as the national dish of Paraguay. Yes sopa means soup, but this like the chipa guazu is more like a cornbread, albeit heavier and moist.

There are disputed origin stories about the dish but the best as always revolves around an accident. A white soup heavy with milk, Paraguayan cheese, egg, and corn flour was requested by an obese governor hundreds of years ago but too much corn flour was added by mistake. The resulting product was thrown in the oven because there was no time to make another, and a new favorite was born.

Mbejú ($4, below) is a cake made from starch and more Paraguayan cheese. The resulting dish has a very chewy texture, similar to sticky rice, and might be the most interesting way to have a snack with your mate cocido.

Chipa almidon ($2, below) is one of many types of chipa snacks that you will see vendors selling alongside the road in Paraguay and at bus stations and stops. While passengers come and go, big baskets of sometimes still warm chipas will be brought on board at stops and tempt the remaining folks still in their seats. The chewy and cheesy breads are perfect for long (and short) bus rides.

It certainly would not be a South American restaurant without empanadas ($2.50 each, below), offered in both beef and chicken. The insides are plenty moist and spiced well, requiring no dipping sauces.

While having no relation to Paraguay, another man of Italian descent was eating the restaurant's gnocchi, known as ñoqui in Spanish, a reminder of Italy's widespread influence in the southern cone region of South America. El Diez has a few pasta dishes cooked in this mashup style including tallarin verde.

You can of course find soups and that famous asado here as well, so bring a group and an appetite to experience a little "slice" of a typical Paraguayan life.

Restaurant El Diez Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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