Don’t look for chile verde on the menu at Zapien’s Salsa Grill and Taquería in Pico Rivera. Instead, ask for Dionicio Morales’ Favorite, named for a guest. Morales apparently liked both chile verde and chile colorado, which is beef in red chile sauce, so the special is either one. There’s no need to choose, though. A plate called chiles divorciados has them both. Unlike occasional specials, Dionicio Morales’ Favorite is available every day. Look for it on the menu under “traditional dishes,” then specify red or green.
It’s the chile verde that excels, with its brilliant, fresh tomatillo flavor. The recipe isn’t secret: Chef Marco C. Zapien, who is co-owner of the restaurant with his father, Jess, explains each step in the cooking demos and classes he gives quarterly at the restaurant. The meat is pork butt, which simmers first in chicken broth. Then jalapeños, bell peppers, tomatillos, onion, garlic and cilantro are sautéed and puréed with stock from the meat. The final step is to cook the meat with the vegetables until it’s fork-tender.
“Everything we do in the restaurant is from scratch,” Zapien says. This includes the tortilla chips that come with salsa and a chipotle bean dip. and the handmade corn tortillas that accompany the chile verde, rice and beans. Weekday lunch specials also include a bowl of soup and a drink.
6702 Rosemead Blvd., Pico Rivera. (562) 942-7072, thesalsagrill.com