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(Covid Update Dec 2021 – in business) I’ve driven past Castillo’s for years. It looks like a classic neighborhood pizza joint, a survivor of the Italian Chambersburg. And at one level it is: the take-out menu is a six-panel tri-fold. Open it, and you think you’re reading every pizza parlor menu on the planet: pizza, stromboli, wings, salads, burgers, pasta.
Open the tri-fold, and the illusion continues: add cheese steaks, subs, and wraps on the newly revealed center panel. Oops, and there, hidden away in the far right panel, which most people will never see, is Comida Hispana.
And that menu is kind of interesting: a mix of Mexican and Puerto Rican specialties… Mexican: flautas, tostadas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, plus (Puerto Rican) Mofongo and Pernil in multiple configurations. Plus, of course, rice, beans, cassava, tostones. Really, they pack a lot of choices into one panel: in reads more like an old-school phone book of Latino cuisine than a menu.
Check out the customers (as we did on a recent Saturday). They’re almost all Latino. They’re eating, guess what? Comida Hispana! Hmm… Show up at lunch time during the week (as we did earlier) and there’s a steam table lunch available with all Latino dishes (chicken, beef, pork stew, rice, red beans, black beans, chicken soup). Yes, there is a pizza pie behind the counter waiting be warmed for customers ordering by the slice, but only one pie (plain), and it looks like it’s been sitting a while.
Even at lunch, however, you can order dishes to be made fresh, and that’s what I chose on my first visit: al pastor tostadas, which you see in the header image. Really good! Spicy al pastor, tasty beans, fresh farmer’s cheese. Nice home made salsa from tomatillos, onion, cilantro, and jalepenos: New Trenton! I love it!
The owner, Francisco, has been running the place for about a year, taking over from his uncle who bought it about 7 years ago. He is Mexican, though he speaks fluent English. Nice guy. Welcoming, friendly, and checks in with you during the meal in a way that is actually helpful. There’s a surprisingly cheerful dining room on the side where you can eat in a booth in comfort and relative quiet.
Back again, a few days later on a Saturday, I show up with Vegincity, who is, of course, a vegetarian. We order a pizza with mushrooms and onions, plus some cassava, rice, and beans.
The cassava (which is not my favorite thing) was done well, and made fresh (not frozen). The beans were bona fide vegetarian, and really, really good!
The pizza was a different story. The pie shows up: it’s undercooked, the crust doughy and mostly limp. It seems like it was machine-pressed rather than hand tossed (though I might be wrong). Cheese is bland (can this really be mozzarella?) and the mushrooms came out of a can. Describing it as mediocre is charitable.
OK, so what can I say? VC and I debate this for a while. In the end we agree: we’re reviewing it as a Latino restaurant. As such, we think it’s pretty good. And maybe for some of our readers, it’s a useful concept… maybe you love Mexican food, but your kids won’t eat anything but plain pizza. Perhaps, for you, Castillo’s is a godsend! For the rest of us it’s a slightly out of focus Latino joint, and a quirky reminder of Trenton’s past.