The bowl of broth reveals more meat at its depths than can seemingly fit in the bowl. This edible optical illusion is consome de chivo, a simple goat soup served on the weekends at Taqueria Gallo Azteca (71 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island; 718-273-6404), one of Staten Island’s stellar Mexican restaurants. The broth is unclouded and flaxen-colored; bay leaves, black peppercorns, and garbanzo beans murmur at its surface. It carries the robust, deep flavor of goat, meat and bones, and though its color is blond, fistfuls of piquin pepper are thrown into the mix, catching at the back of the throat. It’s a victory.
The taqueria is on a breezy corner a short jaunt from the ferry dock, home of a former pizzeria. While cooks take calls for to-go orders, the carnitas pot bubbles away in the kitchen, stirred with a wooden paddle that looks like what gondoliers use to navigate Venetian canals.
On the weekend, the brief menu of tacos ($2.50), tortas ($7), and quesadillas ($4.75) lengthens to include tamales and fortifying soups.
The house specialty is taco azteca ($3), two corn tortillas griddled until steam fuses them together, topped with chips of beef steak, strips of nopal, and softened onion. The red salsa, slick and seedy, is painfully hot; the green is milder. Tables full of young men with even younger siblings lean over plastic, oval plates filled with tacos, eating, talking, unhurried.
A pancita, maroon and dense with simmered pig parts, slides to a nearby table. Everyone is ordering gringas ($8.50), flour tortillas the size of regulation Frisbees, folded over melted cheese and grilled meats with avocado fanned out over the top. Planks of pickled jalapeño sit on the side, to cut the richness. A mural that covers one full wall is a rich tableau of Aztecan history, folklore, and geography — but the edibles here may be the best representation of all.