Looks like Caracas has some competition. Over the weekend, a new Venezuelan restaurant took over half of the old Café Pick Me Up space on Avenue A and 9th Street. Monica Muzzo, owner of Arepas Factory, told us she wanted her menu to reflect both the traditional recipes she grew up with in Venezuela and the ethnic diversity of New York City.
For those of you who haven’t already been schooled by the East Village’s other areperia, aprepas are shaped a little like pork buns but are made with cornflower, water and a touch of salt. Muzzo has four different varieties (traditional, spinach, oatmeal, and chia and flaxseed, all baked upon request so the soft yet crunchy shell is never cold). From there, Muzzo said, you can fill the bun with almost anything. “In Venezuela, this is how you find it everywhere,” she said of the restaurant’s create-your-own style food bar. “You can have it for breakfast or after a party Saturday night.”
With the help of Venezuelan chef Raphael de Garete, she developed fillings that range from traditional Reina Pepiada (chicken and avocado salad) to Thai-inspired curry shrimp to recipes that her mother made when she was growing up. The mojito, for example, is usually made with baby shark, which she and siblings didn’t particularly care for. Her mother improvised by substituting tuna fish instead, and it became a family favorite; it’s a mix of marinated cooked tuna, olives, capers and raisins. The original recipe had cracker crumbles mixed in, but they were taken out; everything you find on the menu at Arepas is gluten free.
Nine different sauces, eight protein fillings and nine additional toppings, plus four different kinds of arepas, means that “basically you’re able to eat a different arepa every day of your life,” Muzzo said. They have a wine and beer license, so expect to see sangria, beer, and wine from small Italian winemaker Vigne Del Malina show up on the menu in the coming days. See the full menu on their Facebook site.
Arepas Factory, 147 Avenue A (East Village). Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.