Cuisines

Restaurant owners celebrate Spanish heritage by offering Venezuelan cuisine in Ardmore

Restaurant owners celebrate Spanish heritage by offering Venezuelan cuisine in Ardmore
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ARDMORE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) — Levi Hernandez and his family say they took a leap of faith in 2020 and decided to open their own business during the pandemic.

“It’s always hard because you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” Hernandez says.

At the time, they cooked in a haunted kitchen and served food to take away.

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He says it turned out to be a good idea for them, as their food was well received by the community.

And in July they opened the doors of Autana, Authentic Venezuelan Food.

Hernandez is the chef at Autana and his daughter, Maria Jose, is the pastry chef.

“Autana means ‘house of the gods,'” she says.

Hernandez’s daughter came up with the idea for the Ardmore restaurant after her parents were fired.

She says Autana became a success because there were no other restaurants in the area that offered such dishes.

“We make Caribbean, Latin American dishes. It’s Venezuelan cuisine at its best,” she says. “Everything is fresh, homemade.”

Hernandez’s wife, Maria Elena, also works in the restaurant, along with their daughter.

She says that because it’s their business, they should do everything “with love, with passion and compromise”.

Hernandez cooks many dishes that remind him of growing up in Venezuela.

He says he uses their family recipes, but his daughter says those recipes are getting “our spin.”

Hernandez says there are many things on the menu that you must try, such as the arepas.

He makes an arepa pelua that is filled with cheese and shredded beef.

Empanadas are also a popular menu item.

“We make 400 every week,” Hernandez says.

Cachapas are made by folding a sweet corn pancake around a protein, like pork, and then a special Venezuelan cheese called queso de mano is added to it.

“People love the cachapas,” he says.

“We use a lot of cornmeal, plantains,” explains Maria Jose. “A lot of sweet and savory in our dishes.”

The patacon is a good example of that combination. It’s a type of sandwich that uses plantains instead of bread.

“It’s so good,” Hernandez says.

Maria José makes the desserts.

“My grandmother is a baker,” she says. “And she taught me a lot from her recipes.”

And when you come to Autana, you are treated like family.

“We feel very grateful,” says Maria Jose. “We have really great customers. They connect a lot with us as a family, our story and our food.”

“We are a team,” says Maria Elena. “Autana is a family.”

“This is my home,” Hernandez says.

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