We discovered another great spot for authentic Portuguese food in New Bedford recently, but we admit that we almost passed it up.
Alianca sits on a corner at the edge of a gritty residential neighborhood, across from a vacant lot in one direction and a boarded-up package store in another. The exterior looks startlingly different from the portrayal on its snazzy, professional website. Dare to open the door (during our visit, its sign was flipped around to display “CLOSED”) and you’ll feel like you stumbled upon a private party to which you were not invited. The regulars look up, and when you sit at the odd little bar, you’ll feel like you’ve taken someone else’s seat. A soap opera is playing loudly on a giant TV. You’ll realize that you’re the only people, patrons or staff, not speaking Portuguese. If that makes you uncomfortable, this is definitely not the place for you.
But get past all that, and you will be glad you did, because you’re in for a feast of Portuguese specialties, very large portions at reasonable prices, with flavors designed to appeal to the region’s large population of Portuguese, Azorean, and Cape Verdean emigres, and not watered down for American tastes.
Let us tell you about the wine first, because that was fun. Alianca offers some Portuguese wines – their reds are still the great value that Spanish reds were a decade ago – by the glass, half bottle, or bottle. We ordered half bottles ($9 apiece) of two red blends, each featuring aragonez, the Portuguese name for the tempranillo grape. We’ll be watching for these wines, Monte Velho and JP Azeitao, the latter of which had a higher percentage of syrah and thus was preferred by the Big Dog. We don’t pretend to be wine experts but these tasted good, and seemed to be an excellent value.
The Big Dog started with a generous cup of Portuguese soup ($3). It was your typical kale soup, but so much richer and heartier than what you get at some places.
Gina ordered a “pork steak” with a garlic sauce that made it “Alianca style” ($12.95). The meltingly tender pork came topped with a fried egg and slice of vinegar red pepper and a fistful of whole garlic cloves. The flavorful sauce was delicious when scooped up with the side of rice or the crusty bread that came with the meal. It even made the mixed vegetable side seem special. Where we would normally each take home half our lunch entrees, it was quickly apparent that this outstanding dish was not going to make it home.
The Big Dog ordered the Portuguese burger ($10.95), a special that day. It came with a fried egg and slices of either mild chourico or spicy linguica, and yummy crisp french fries. The burger was excellent, and the half we took home was tasty when reheated.
We really enjoyed our food, and importantly, we felt like the waitstaff and someone who came out from the kitchen to check on us were glad that we did. Where at first we felt like we were in a private party to which we were not invited, we left feeling like honored guests.
98 Cove Street, New Bedford, MA