Newark, NJ 07105
July 22, 2013
To enjoy Leitão á Bairrada, the renowned delicacy of the Bairrada region of Portugal, you could travel across the Atlantic to Coimbra, an ancient university town north of Lisbon. You can also go to Newark, the less ancient university town in northern New Jersey.
Coimbra Restaurant, in the Ironbound section of Newark, specializes in Leitão á Bairrada – Portuguese roast suckling pig prized for its exceedingly moist pork and crispy skin.
Traditional leitão begins by rubbing a whole young pig inside and out with a paste of garlic, white pepper and pig fat. The 15 – 20 pound piglet is then slow roasted on a spit in the oven for a couple hours. The result is subtly-flavored meat encrusted in super-crispy skin. The skin is irresistible – glistening, crispy and a deep, reddish-ochre color. The melted layer of fat underneath coats every slice of pork with even more flavor.
If you are lucky when you visit, a leitão will have just come out of Coimbra’s oven. A plate of the tender and crackling pork morsels goes very nicely with a bottle of Portuguese vinho verde. The wine list includes some double bottles (1.5 liters) of Portuguese wine. If the pork is still roasting, order off Coimbra’s full menu of classic Portuguese seafood and grilled meat dishes. The homemade chourico, served flaming, and the richly satisfying duck fried rice (arroz de pato) are excellent. Call ahead to order a whole leitão to go.
Coimbra features a full bar with tables on one side of the building, and a large dining room on the other. Service is slightly formal, yet friendly, and the dining room is often filled with large families and parties. Portuguese may help here, but is not necessary.
Away from Ferry Street, the main Ironbound eating thoroughfare with numerous Portuguese, Brazilian and Spanish spots, Coimbra is conveniently located just across the Passaic River from Red Bull Arena. Good to know you can feast on Portuguese leitão after the next soccer match.
Newark, NJ 07105