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Popular East Harlem Pig Roast Turns El Barrio into El Boar-io

By Jeff Mays | September 24, 2013 3:58pm
 The pig roast dubbed "El Boar-rio" will take place at La Marqueta over the next few weekends.
The pig roast dubbed "El Boar-rio" will take place at La Marqueta over the next few weekends.
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Sara Gatanas

HARLEM — East Harlem is traditionally know as El Barrio, but a successful weekend pig roasting event will give the neighborhood a new, temporary nickname: "El Boar-rio."

Over the next few weekends, Dimitri Gatanas, owner of Urban Garden Center at La Marqueta, and his crew will roast an entire pig and serve it in tacos made with local ingredients.

The pig is from Casablanca Meat Market on 110th Street, the hot sauce is by locally-owned SASS,  and the tacos are made with Riazul Tequila, whose owner also lives in the neighborhood.

Guests can wash it all down with a cold Sugar Hill beer, named after the famous Harlem neighborhood and whose owner also lives in Harlem.

"Our main mission is to promote local products, local resources and promote the La Marqueta experience," Gatanas said.

The idea came about when a friend, a former bar owner in New Jersey who had just sold his business, wanted to get involved with what Gatanas was trying to build in Harlem.

Gatanas, whose family-owned Urban Garden Center occupies space underneath the Metro-North tracks at 116th Street and Park Avenue, decided to liven up the area by opening a weekly flea market called Flea Marqueta in June.

The pig roast is another effort to draw people to the neighborhood and Urban Garden Center.

"We are in the middle of the neighborhood but in a weird way it's a dead zone so you have to create a destination," Gatanas said. "We hope to be a part of residents and visitors' shopping experience but do it in a way that's not disingenuous."

The pig is roasted for hours on a cement block roaster at roughly 230 degrees. It's served with an ear of corn and blue and white corn tortilla, slaw, topped with Korean style barbecue sauce and tequila.

During the first pig roast, customers at Urban Garden Center came over and started eating the pig with forks. Last week's roast was so popular that people keep stopping by the shop to find out when the next one is.

This Sunday, visitors to El Boar-rio will also  have a chance to give back to the neighborhood with 116th Street Beautification Day.

Volunteers will help spruce up the tree beds along 116th Street from Park Avenue to Pleasant Avenue with plantings. The event is sponsored by Burlington Coat Factory which is opening in East River Plaza next month.

Flea Marqueta continues every Sunday from 12 p.m to 6 p.m. until Oct. 27 and El Boar-rio will take place this Sunday, Sept. 29 and then again on Oct. 13 and Oct. 27.

The season culminates on Oct. 27 with the second annual East Harlem Harvest Festival.

"We are in the community and part of our goal is to make sure the community is enriched,"  Gatanas said. "It's exactly what I dreamed about when I opened the shop."