Tacos from Carnitas Ramirez. Photo: Carnitas Ramirez

When it opened in 2021, Taqueria Ramirez instantly attracted lines of hungry New Yorkers, thanks in part to little-seen (in Greenpoint, anyway) specialties like suadero, the smooth-textured cut of beef long-cooked in a mix of fat and broth. Owners Giovanni Cervantes and Tania Apolinar, who are partners in life, call it one-third of their “saint trilogy of tacos.” The others are barbacoa and carnitas, the latter of which is the focus of their new East Village shop, which opens later this month and is aptly named Carnitas Ramirez

Until recently, real-deal carnitas — multiple cuts of pork, bathed in lard and cooked in a cazo — was rare in the city. Since the pandemic, though, there’s been a boom of outer-borough specialists like Carnitas el Viejon and Chilango’s Taqueria. When it opens this month, Carnitas Ramirez will join their ranks with a purist’s zeal. Expect a mix of skin, belly, shoulder, and stomach, and while some cooks supplement their recipes with ingredients like Coca-Cola, orange, or oregano, Ramirez will use only salt and lard. “It’s still something to be decided whether we’re going to use garlic, but we’re not going to go further than that,” Cervantes say.

To help, they’ve teamed up with Kari Boden to handle front of house, and Yvon de Tassigny, formerly of St. Anselm. Cervantes calls him a “meat guy”; the Times once called him “a master of off-cut lamb and beef.” Here, he will become a master of the whole hog, serving skin, belly, ribs, pork butt, ears, stomach, tongue, heart, and brains. Along with the tacos, they’ll have weekly specials such as tortas, gorditas de chicharron, and “sesadillas,” a.k.a. pork-brain quesadillas. “As much as we can serve everything, we want to,” Apolinar says.

Cervantes and de Tassigny have been working on their carnitas recipe for the past year — and landed on the simpler-is-better approach after meeting the “carnitas maestros” of Michoacán. “These guys were like, ‘You only need to add salt,’” he says. They told him that the real skill is in tending to the meat: “It’s more of a game of being really precise with the temperature and the time that you put into each piece because, obviously, not everything cooks at the same temperature or at the same time.” This, he explains, is why he’s still on the fence as it relates to garlic: He doesn’t want to unnecessarily add ingredients to his lard, which he’s been tending and keeping, and now talks about the way bakers discuss their sourdough starters. “I just don’t want to risk it — I really want to preserve that lard,” he says, “And, dude, you have to keep your lard for generations. It’s like when I die, I’m going to give someone my lard.”

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