Venezuelan | Quick takeout | Arepas | $
Pabellon Criollo, with shredded beef and an arepa. (Emily Matthews/Post-Gazette)
The family behind Arepittas — husband and wife Carlos Antela and Danielle Figueroa; her brother, Daniel Figueroa; and nephew, Jonathan Rosas — want to introduce Pittsburghers to their native cuisine. Key to that, Danielle explains (in Spanish, translated by her nephew), are arepas. It’s a dish so ubiquitous in their homeland, she says, that there’s a saying: “Venezuelans are born with an arepa under our arms.”
Arepas get their grit from corn flour, and the flatbread is either eaten alone or used as a tasty packaging. “It’s very versatile,” Danielle notes. “You can put anything inside it.” Arepas are eaten both as a side dish and a full meal. “It identifies our idiosyncrasy. It is part of our culinary culture and it is our letter of introduction as immigrants, and we share it with great pride with the whole world.”
Opened in January 2019, several years after the family immigrated to Western Pennsylvania from Caracas, Arepittas was born, Danielle says, of the need many Venezuelans feel when “they move from our country, they always try to show the good food that we have.”
While the restaurant marks a career shift for all four — Danielle was a lawyer in her home country and her brother a teacher — the food remains personal. Carlos’ parents ran restaurants in Venezuela for decades, while Daniel gave cooking lessons. “And Danielle, she has all the recipes from her grandmother, so we decided to mix all that together. And we have Arepittas,” Jonathan says.
The food: The national dish of Venezuela, Pabellon Criollo, is absolutely represented: shredded beef meets rice, black beans, sweet plantains and cheese, and comes with one arepa.
The very portable arepas have fillings to satisfy most diets. Go breakfast-y with chorizo and egg or keep it pescatarian with the Marinera, stuffed with shrimp, squid, scallops, octopus and mussels. Go full-carnivore with three pork choices or four red meat options, such as the grilled steak, avocado and white cheese Llanera. Or make it meatless with one of several vegetarian options.
Most everything is crafted from scratch, Danielle notes, from those flatbreads (made with P.A.N. flour) to the slow-cooked meats. That extends to the rest of the menu, which includes 10 varieties of empanadas, several tacos, tostones (fried green plantains, served with or without meat), cachapas (a corn pancake), tequeños (fried white cheese) and cachitos, a traditional bread filled with chopped ham.
The drinks: Check out the Typical Drinks of Venezuela, which include Chila Criolla (rice, whole and condensed milks and spices) and Coffee Lemonade (sugar cane, coffee syrup, green lemons).
412 Cherry Way; arepittas.com