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Del Fuego, St. James: First bites

Ribs at Del Fuego in St. James

Ribs at Del Fuego in St. James Credit: Newsday/Joan Reminick

I recently dined at Del Fuego in St. James, the latest enterprise from the owners of Ruvo in Greenlawn and Port Jefferson. The lively little place, tucked inside a strip mall, has a casual vibe and a hopping tequila bar scene. Fresh made-to-order food is the emphasis.

The meal began on a high note with a resonant bowl of chicken tortilla soup ($7) and a half rack of deeply flavorful dry-rubbed ribs ($11) topped with pumpkin seeds and plated with red cabbage slaw.

But the restaurant’s namesake “Fuego” salad with grilled chicken ($16) was a letdown comprising wilted field greens with a few slices of mango, avocado and jicama, along with charred pieces of poultry. A trio of three different kinds of tacos had, sadly, been made with flavorless flour tortillas instead of the more authentically Mexican soft corn variety. Best, among the fillings featured, was shredded beef brisket with poblano pepper, followed by seared tilapia with corn salsa and chipotle aioli. In last place was the mesquite chicken: shredded poultry with black beans, avocado and Mexican crema, the elements combining to form a kind of paste.

I’m hoping for better the next time I go.

Del Fuego is at 429 N. Country Rd., St. James; 631-963-6900.