Venezuelan Fare At El Aripo On The Lower East Side

El Aripo tastes like Venezuela

If we had a Venezuelan mother, we'd tear into overstuffed cornmeal arepas and sweet plantains on the regular at home.

But since we're SOL on the having-a-Venezuelan-mom front, we're adopting El Aripo's Ruth Sanchez as a stand-in. She's been cooking delicious home-style food at her pint-size family operation on the Lower East Side since June.

Sanchez keeps things simple and satisfying with a four-item menu: arepas, empanadas, pastelón and patacón.

Each snack is easy to love: There are the arepas ($2 to $5.75), corn-dough patties grilled, split and stuffed with a myriad of toppings; we like them best filled with fat slices of avocado.

We tore into deep-fried, half-moon-shaped empanadas ($3), and the pastelón ($7.75), a Caribbean lasagna of sorts that layers fried ripe plantains with ground beef and stretchy mozzarella.

But it's the taste of the patacón, a massive beauty that swaps bread for mashed, smashed and fried green plantains, that made us really want to call El Aripo home. Two layers of starchy plantains sandwich a brawny mess of torn lettuce and mozzarella, all loaded down with shredded flank steak.

Thanks, Ma.