Astoria, Guest Bloggers, Restaurants, United Nations of Astoria
May 09, 2013

United Nations of Astoria – Arepas Cafe

In this edition of United Nations of Astoria, Anne visits Arepas Cafe, a Venezuelan restaurant on 36th Ave in Astoria.

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Welcome to the United Nations of Astoria, a new column that will appear about once a month, written by food writer and local Astorian, Anne Noyes Saini, who is also the creative force behind the audio series Forgotten Foods of New York. Welcome, Anne! -Meg

In a borough renowned for its multi-culturalism (represent, Queens!), Astoria is home to a particularly diverse mix of cultures. Astorians from the Balkans, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Czech Republic/Slovakia, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, and even our southerly neighboring borough (that’s you, Brooklyn) rub shoulders everyday in the ‘hood. And you know what that means: excellent eating.  


Photo by Anne Noyes Saini, courtesy of City Spoonful

At Arepas Café thick, pancake-like corn arepas are griddled until their outsides become slightly crispy, then slit like pitas, and stuffed with meat, cheese, beans, or vegetables.

But don’t confuse these Venezuelan-style arepas with their Colombian counterparts.


Photo by Anne Noyes Saini, courtesy of City Spoonful

In Venezuela arepas are stuffed with a diverse array of savory fillings—a popular late-night snack. Colombian arepas—with butter, cheese, or eggs piled on top—are a hearty, comforting breakfast dish. At Arepas Café,the traditional roasted and shredded meat fillings (pernil—pork; and pabellón—beef) are always a good bet. So are the arepas stuffed with seafood (gazon—baby shark; and tuna), which are typical of owner Riccardo Romero’s home city, Carúpano, on Venezuela’s northeastern coast.


Photo by Anne Noyes Saini, courtesy of City Spoonful

Amid the mostly meaty options, the vegetarian Guayanesa tropical arepa holds its own—bolstered by a rich combination of fried sweet plantains, creamy wedges of avocado, and firm, mild Guyanese cheese.

The arepas arrive at the table accompanied by two sauces: guasacaca (mayonnaise mixed with avocado, garlic and cilantro) and a Trinidadian hot sauce infused with Scotch bonnet peppers.


Photo by Anne Noyes Saini, courtesy of City Spoonful

If you’re new to Venezuelan food, be sure to try the tequeños—finger-size sticks of mild, white cheese wrapped in a thin layer of dough, and deep-fried. These are Venezuela’s ubiquitous national snack, and at Arepas Café they are served in true Venezuelan style with salsa rosada (ketchup blended with mayonnaise). The mini cachapas, bite-size sweet corn pancakes topped with queso blanco (soft, white cheese) and a dab of nata (tangy, thick Venezuelan sour cream), are also very tasty—and very Venezuelan.

Wash down you meal with a sweet drink. I recommend the potent tropical sangria (tropical juices, fruit, and ample rum), the refreshing jugo de papelón con limón (brown-sugar-sweetened homemade lemonade), or the rich chicha (thick rice-pudding “shake” spiced with powdered cinnamon .


Photo by Anne Noyes Saini, courtesy of City Spoonful

Or if you’re feeling playful, Arepas Cafe is one of the few places in NYC where you can score a Frescolita, Venezuela’s beloved, bubble-gum-flavored, pink soda.

Arepas Café, 33-07 36th Avenue, Astoria, NY, 11106, (718) 937-3835,

About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

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