Sylvia Noguera and Alfonso Abreu offer food with an international flair.
October 26, 2016
PAT COPELAND | SUN
ANNA MARIA – Alfonso Abreu and Sylvia Noguera have spiced up the café at The Center of Anna Maria Island with an international flair featuring such delights as empanadas, chipas and yucca fries.
“We have a partnership with the Center to lease the space in the kitchen to operate our culinary operation and distribution center.” Abreu explained.
Abreu, originally from the Dominican Republic, grew up in the Bronx and developed a talent for music, but pursued a career in technology – from software to consulting and coaching to startups.
“My mom and dad were both great cooks, and I learned from them,” he said. “Through the years as I got better, I hosted parties, and people said I should open a restaurant, but I resisted.”
However, when he met Sylvia, that resistance melted. Sylvia, who hails from Argentina, grew up in a family of doctors, and said her childhood memories are of a house full of music, food, family and friends. She came to the U.S., specifically the Island and northwest Bradenton, eight years ago and eventually met Abreu.
“We started following our passion for food and people,” she said.
Evenings in The Center’s cafe
The couple took over evenings at the café in September and offer a local food experience for artisanal, gourmet, internationally inspired street food.
“Every culture has a sandwich, a dumpling, meat on a stick,” Abreu pointed out. “Our passion is to look across those cultures and figure out how to express all those interpretations of those foods in a creative and multicultural way.
“We want to tap into what you remember as comfort food. The empanada is a canvas for expressing international inspirations. There are a lot of subtleties in how these things are expressed.”
Abreu has created spices for the empanada fillings that pay homage to a cuisine or a country including Argentina, the West Indies, Spain, Mexico and the Middle East. In addition, he has created 17 sauces such as burnt orange barbecue and mango chutney to enhance the flavors of the empanadas.
Other offerings include Argentine style baked chipas, which are cassava based cheese breads, baked garlic Parmesan yucca ‘NoFries’ and sliders. There also are three bases – mint couscous, wild and brown rice pilaf and spiced turmeric quinoa – on which a protein can be added.
Vegetarian offerings include lettuce wraps with vegetable protein and jicama tacos. There also are gluten free and vegan options and a full line of fresh, frozen, vacuum-sealed products.
Eat in, pick up, delivery
Diners can eat in or pick up food Monday through Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. or have food delivered Monday through Saturday from 6 to 11 p.m. Catering is available, full online service will begin this weekend and in November, there will be free, downloadable iPhone and android apps.
Those who go to www.empacurious.com and click on Get in on the Buzz, will learn about new creations, promotions and events. The couple also is planning a guest chef pop up event in Sarasota and will offer food at Anna Maria Elementary School’s fourth-grade play on Nov. 15.