310 S. C St.
$1.50 – $18.95

Where would we be without salons and barbershops? Overgrown and hairy for sure, but we’d also be lacking in all that important info that can be gathered while sitting in the hairdresser’s chair. What better place is there to get caught up on current events, a bit of gossip, and get great tips on the newest places to grab a bite to eat? It was one such tip that led me to this next review.

On a much-needed outing for haircuts for my kids, there sat a pile of fliers atop the stylist’s cabinet, fliers for Casapueblo, the new South American cafe in Oxnard. Though I had heard of it, it wasn’t until she spoke about the food — her eyes alive with excitement — that I knew I had to check it out.

cThough it was fairly empty when we first arrived for dinner, I was immediately struck by the vibe of the place. Half market jammed with South American groceries, half casual cafe accented with decorative touches, shiny new tables and chairs, and a long line of vibrant international flags. A sitting area for those stopping in for a cappuccino, a small wine bar, a meat counter, and a pastry case complete the picture of this new eatery.

The menu at Casapueblo offers specialties from Argentina and Uruguay, plus a selection of Italian dishes that are integral to South American cuisine. As we studied the menu, we ordered a glass of malbec and an Argentinian beer and a few empanadas to start.

While we waited, our server brought a plate of peanuts and a dish of fresh, warm bread. Though there were also slices of baguette, it was the round little rolls that grabbed our attention. Warm, soft and sweet, they were the perfect way to start our meal, especially when topped with spoonfuls of chimichurri sauce and a vibrant red pepper sauce. When the empanadas came, we topped them with the flavorful sauces as well. The chicken and beef were the favorites — simple and savory, wrapped in a golden brown crust, fresh from the oven.

The entree options at Casapueblo include tacos, sandwiches, grilled and smoked meats, pizzas, pasta and seafood dishes. We opted for three entrees and shared them around the table. Of the three, the chori-pan sandwich, made with homemade Argentinian sausage and chimichurri sauce, was the standout. The flavorful sausage is cut lengthwise, grilled, and served on a soft French roll. The juices and the char from the grill infused the chimichurri-drizzled bread with loads of flavor, the perfect counterpart to the mild seasoning of the sausage itself.

Upon the recommendation of our server, we also wanted to try one of the milanesa dishes. Milanesa, a dish with European roots that is a staple in South American cuisine, refers to a thin cut of beef or chicken that is lightly breaded and fried. At Casapueblo, the milanesa can be ordered as a sandwich, served plain or topped with a variety of toppings like ham, tomato sauce and cheese.

cWe opted for the milanesa al caballo — the beef milanesa topped with two over-easy eggs, served with a pile of crispy french fries. In this dish, the golden egg yolks become a silky gravy; and when eaten together with the fries, all piled together on the fork, it is strikingly good. Though some at the table found the egg yolk enough, I found that adding the chimichurri and roasted pepper sauces offered exactly the kick of flavor and moisture the dish needed.

Wanting to sample one of the handmade pasta dishes, we ordered the canelones, handmade crepes filled with spinach and cheese. Though the filling was hearty and infused with a distinct fresh oregano flavor, the white sauce was thick and missing the silkiness that can often elevate a simple pasta dish.

The dessert options at Casapueblo are bountiful: crepes, crème brulée, flan, tiramisu and all of the pastry options beckoning from the case. We sampled the alfajores de maicena, little shortbread sandwich cookies filled with caramel and rolled in coconut. Then we ordered the mil hojas, a layered dessert of puff pastry and caramel (similar to a napoleon); and a quince tart, filled with a thick, sweet filling the color of ripe raspberries. All three were divine, the perfect ending to our meal.

All in all, Casapueblo offers diners a great way to get to know another culture through its people and its food. With its variety, excellent prices, expertly prepared meats, and authentic baked goods, this is one of those places where you just might fall in love — with the servers, the atmosphere and, most definitely, the food.

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