Latin restaurants serving up dance

Mary Meyerdierks from Oyster Bay comes to Mirelle's Mary Meyerdierks from Oyster Bay comes to Mirelle's restaurant in Westbury for the Latin dancing nights. (Aug. 30, 2012) Photo Credit: Barbara Alper

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Salsa: It's something spicy to eat and it's also a kind of exuberant dance that makes you swing your hips and move your feet with abandon.

Now, eating and dancing Latin style are coming together on Long Island at a small cadre of restaurants offering evenings that combine the chips with the dips.

At Gallo, an authentic Colombian restaurant in Patchogue, you can start dinner with house-made nachos and salsa and, afterward, take salsa and bachata lessons in the dance studio upstairs.

At Puglia's in Garden City, specials like seviche and paella are on order on Latin Dance Night, when a DJ spins or a live band plays.

Four Food Studio, a Melville dining destination, offers potent Latin drinks and a smokin' brisket taco. Eat first, then take a brief lesson and lose yourself to the Latin club scene.

And at Mirelle's, a restaurant and catering hall in Westbury, dance teacher and DJ Louis Del Prete kicks off Thursday nights with a 45-minute lesson. "We get beginners to intermediate to advanced," says Del Prete, adding, "We're always getting new people." After class, dancers take a quick turn at the buffet table -- chicken and rice; sometimes, fried plantains. Then, Del Prete goes into DJ mode with a mix of Latin dances -- cha-cha, salsa, bachata, merengue -- as well as hustle and West Coast swing.

Here are some places where you can dance and dine, Latin style:

GALLO

WHEN 7 p.m. Tuesdays

DANCE The upstairs space of this Colombian restaurant is where Chenique Baly of Rhythmology Dance Studio in Westbury offers hourlong classes in salsa and bachata. The studio is equipped with mirrors and a dance floor.

FOOD Before lessons, sit down to a Colombian meal that might start with nachos and chunky house-made salsa ($2). Chef-owner David Bustamente turns out a superior half rotisserie chicken with rice, beans and yellow or green plantains ($11). On every table is a bottle of Bustamente's proprietary green sauce; use freely.

COST $12 for an hour lesson.

PUGLIA'S

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WHEN 8 p.m. Wednesdays

DANCE An all-Latin repertoire is either spun by a DJ or performed by a live band. There are two dance floors where you can try out your moves, but no lessons.

FOOD Take advantage of such Latin night specials as seviche, camarones con tequila, tostones and paella. Appetizers, $8-$12; entrees, $19-$24. Also: $3 margaritas at the bar.

COST Free for those dining and/or drinking at the bar.

MIRELLE'S

WHEN 7:30 p.m. Thursdays

DANCE Del Prete offers a rotating series of salsa, West Coast swing and hustle lessons with dancing afterward; the mix draws a serious dance crowd as well as beginners. Next Latin class, cha-cha, starts Oct. 4. A new salsa series begins Nov. 15.

FOOD The buffet changes from week to week but could include Latin chicken, rice and beans and fried plantains. Keep that Latin feeling going with a rum and Coke from the bar.

COST $14 a person includes dinner and lessons. Drinks separate.

FOUR FOOD STUDIO

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WHEN Around 9:30 or 10 p.m. Thursdays

DANCE Most Thursdays, dance teacher Alfred Pena of Rhythmology gives a short introductory lesson in Latin dance, usually salsa. Then, DJ "Jay" plays a mix of salsa, bachata, cha-cha and merengue, which runs until about 11 p.m. and is followed by a "top 40" freestyle set that goes late into the night.

FOOD From chef Ben Durham's seasonally changing menu, go Latin with smoked brisket tacos with K. Pacho hot sauce ($13) and a mojito.

COST Free (occasional cover charge for guest DJs)

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