WATCH: El Bodegon in Cocoa Village Features Authentic Spanish Cuisine, Multi-Cultural Vibe
By Maria Sonnenberg // May 31, 2019
Dining On the Space Coast With Maria Sonnenberg
WATCH: Brevard’s El Bodegon, located in Cocoa Village at 114 Harrison Street, has a vibe that nods to the multi-cultural composition of the county.
BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA VILLAGE, FLORIDA – As the Space Coast grows, so does its collection of ethnic restaurants. Hispanic restaurants, once rare in the area, now are easy to find, although most stick to the now-almost-mainstream varieties of Mexican, Cuban or Puerto Rican cuisine.
An authentic Spanish restaurant, such as El Bodegon in Cocoa Village at 114 Harrison Street, still remains a rare bird.
The name refers to the traditional taverns of Spanish villages so well loved by the locals, places where patrons could linger over sangria for hours, graze on a tapas or two, or three or four, and listen to the eloquence of the Spanish guitar.
Brevard’s El Bodegon has harnessed the spirit of these people-pleasers, but with a vibe that nods to the multi-cultural composition of the county.
El Bodegon hails originally from Winter Park, where it was one of the upscale city’s anchor restaurants until it closed on New Year’s Eve of 2017. It was here that Marino Biondini, its current owner, first became connected with the restaurant.
“I was 18 and started out as a dishwasher ten years ago,” said Biondini.
With a work ethic of “arrive early, stay late,” Biondini rose through the ranks to managing the kitchen.
When the original owner, a true Gallego from the Spanish province of Galicia, decided to move back to the homeland, Biondini thought the time was right for him to take over the helm.
“I put every penny I had into it,” he said.
Landlord trouble post-Hurricane Irma made living Winter Park easy for Biondini, who closed the original restaurant on Dec. 31, 2017.
“At 2 a.m., we had a big U-Haul packed and we were on our way to Cocoa Village,” he said.
By March 1, 2018, El Bodegon was settled into its new home in a former bank building that has seen its share of restaurants, from Pho Cocoa Fusion to Sublime Restaurant.
Biondini is here to stay, he says. In addition to a relentless work ethic, Biondini brings to the table a unique background.
“Both my parents are from Argentina, my Grandma is Turkish and my Grandpa is Italian,” he explained.
“I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Colombia.”
Biondini’s family eventually returned to the States, settling first in Miami and later Orlando. Biondini discovered his restaurant’s future home during a short getaway to Brevard.
“We were taking some time off and were cruising around Brevard and discovered Cocoa Village,” he said.
“It was at the time of year when the Village had all the twinkling lights on and it was very pretty. We walked by the bank building when the owner was just coming out of it.”
One thing led to another, and Biondini soon found himself with a new – and better – location for his El Bodegon.
“This is a much larger restaurant, and seats about 150,” he said.
More than 70 percent of the menu, which remains pretty much as it was in Winter Park, consists of traditional Spanish fare such as paella, available in seven different versions, including the classic Paella a la Valenciana, as well as the Seafood Paella and the calamari-intensive Paella Negra.
In Winter Park, El Bodegon was renowned for its paella, and the tradition continues in Cocoa Village.
Tapas – both hot and cold – are plentiful and include tantalizing options such as Calamares al Bodegon, non-breaded but fried calamari cooked in a slightly spicy lime and parsley homemade sauce. Ceviche is not Spanish in origin per se, but Biondini added a Peruvian version, with a spicy El Bodegon twist, to the menu.
“Our ceviche is to die for,” said Biondini, and he is right.
Must-haves are the Cocktail de Camarones, grilled shrimp cocktail taken to the next level, thanks to El Bodegon’s Manchego and bleu cheese sauce, and the devilishly delicious and visually awesome Chorizos al Infierno, Spanish sausage served with brandy flambe.
Biondini has found that folks well-versed with Spanish cuisine appreciate entrees such as the Zarzuela de Mariscos, with fresh mussels, baby clams, shrimp and cod in a homemade sauce of tomatoes, garlic, cilantro and sherry.
Pollo a la Vizcaina, a traditional Spanish dish of fresh grilled chicken breast in a homemade tomato sauce, gets a New World twist with the fried plantains and steamed broccoli served at El Bodegon.
There is also a Viscaina version with codfish, lightly breaded and very memorable.
Spanish cuisine incorporates some serious meats, and it figures prominently at El Bodegon, where the menu showcases the fall-off-the-bone Jarrete de Cordero, aka lamb shank, cooked in a veggie and red wine sauce.
A Rioja reduction tops the Chuleton de Cerdo, the fresh pork chops cooked with fine spices and served with sweet plantains.
As far as libations, El Bodegon offers a full bar, but it would be sinful not to try the sangria or one of the 32 different Spanish wines, from breezy tempranillos to beefy riojas.
No Spanish restaurant would be complete without Spanish music, and El Bodegon satisfies in that department with the vibrant flamenco duo “Alborea,” who perform their magic from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Fridays.
From 5 p.m. to close on Saturdays, Gabriel the violinist plays, and on Sundays from 4 to 7 p.m., patrons can enjoy dinner and show with a singer and Spanish guitarist.
“It is just like being at a restaurant in Spain,” said Biondini.
El Bodegon, at 114 Harrison Street, Cocoa Village, is open from 11:30 to 3 p.m. and 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, from noon until 10 p.m. on Saturdays and from noon until 9 p.m. on Sundays.
From 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, the Happy Hour special features $5 tapas and $4 house wine and sangria.
For Father’s Day, El Bodegon will offer a special prix fixe menu along with the regular menu. The $55 Father’s Day menu will include choice of tapas, entrée, dessert, sangria and a glass of cava.
A Spanish guitarist and the flamenco dancers will entertain in the afternoon and early evening. Reservations are strongly recommended.
El Bodegon is located in Cocoa Village at 114 Harrison Street. For more information, call 321-208-8086 or visit elbodegoncocoa.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maria Sonnenberg is a veteran freelance writer and photographer and longtime resident of Melbourne, Florida. She has been writing about the culinary arts on the Space Coast for more than 20 years and enjoys discovering and highlighting Brevard’s many unique and diverse places to eat and drink. A former editor for a string of weekly newspapers in and around the Pennsylvania Dutch country, Maria now writes for several local publications, including Space Coast Daily magazine for the past 13 years. In addition, her work has appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, Florida Monthly, Progressive Engineer, BMW Journal and other regional and national magazines.
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