Arts

Empanadas, anyone?

Venga brings appetizing meat and vegetarian pastries to Redwood City

I hadn't been an empanada fan, always finding them to be chewy pastry with scant filling, but the Chilean version was a revelation. The pastry was the perfect flaky container for marvelous meats, cheeses and vegetables.

Eight of us were barreling down a back road in central Chile singing "Why, why, why, Delilah?" at the tops of our lungs after a day of wine tasting in the Maipo Valley. We were heading back to our hotel when our tour guide, Oscar, suggested we stop for take-out empanadas.

He knew the perfect place. It was like a roadside McDonald's except they made and sold only empanadas. The place was jammed and there were three men in the parking lot directing cars to available spaces. Oscar came back with a heaping box of the most heavenly empanadas.

Like pasta in Italy and burgers in America, every region of Latin America has its own best-in-the-world recipes for making empanadas. Brazil has pastéis, Mexico pastes Pachuqueños, Ecuador empanadas de viento and Argentina the mouthwatering Mendocinas (empanadas from the Mendoza region), and every region of Argentina has its own variation.

I had been to Venga Empanadas in San Francisco's Mission District and was delighted when a second location opened late last year on Main Street in Redwood City. Argentine empanadas are baked, not fried, and Venga offers at least 18 varieties, both meat and veggie, along with a half-dozen homemade soups, crisp salads, desserts and Argentine specialty foods.

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The three principals of the restaurant bring a variety of experience. Paula Capovilla is from Patagonia; Alicia Jimenez is from Mexico City; and Pablo Romano is from Argentina.

Romano said that in his younger days, he owned a campground/boat rental operation near the Atlantic coast. Nearby, he ran a roadside parrilla, a traditional Argentine iron barbecue grill. He is also an artist, graphic designer and musician.

It's that broad range of experience and entrepreneurial spirit that often coalesces into something delightful -- in this case, empanadas, although the original founder of Venga, Manuel Godino, has moved on.

My favorite empanadas at the new Redwood City outpost were the Argentine beef ($3.95) made with beef, onions, red bell pepper and hard-boiled egg. The savory aji gallina ($3.95) with chicken, onions, yellow bell pepper, tomatoes, parsley, cumin, saffron, chile flakes and cayenne pepper was spicy but not hot.

There are plenty of options for vegetarians, too. The California veggie ($3.95) was filled with spinach, Napa cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, raisins and almonds. The three-cheese-and-walnut empanada ($3.95) with mozzarella, blue and Monterey jack cheeses; onions; and caramelized walnuts was both creamy and crunchy.

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On a cool day, the hearty vegan white bean soup came with white beans, onions, peppers, celery, mushrooms and tomatoes. The cold chunky tomato gazpacho soup is a must on warm summer days. All soups cost $6.25 for 16 oz. (enough for two).

The products at Venga on Main Street are made in a commissary five blocks away rather than trucked down from San Francisco. Not making products on the premises, though, can be problematic when particular flavors run low. One suggestion is to order ahead for pickup or take potluck when you arrive. Every empanada I tried was warmed to order, the soft and tender ingredients tucked inside a crisp, flaky coat.

If you dine at the restaurant, seating is limited, but there is wine, beer and sangria as a consolation and maybe you could sing, "Why, why, why, Delilah?"

Venga Empanadas

822 Main St., Redwood City

650-549-8932

vengaempanadas.com

Hours: Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5-8 p.m.

Reservations: no

Credit cards: yes

Parking: street

Alcohol: beer and wine

Happy hour: no

Corkage: n/a

Children: yes

Takeout: yes

Outdoor dining: no

Noise level: moderate

Bathroom cleanliness: excellent

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Empanadas, anyone?

Venga brings appetizing meat and vegetarian pastries to Redwood City

by Dale F. Bentson / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Jun 14, 2018, 11:14 am

I hadn't been an empanada fan, always finding them to be chewy pastry with scant filling, but the Chilean version was a revelation. The pastry was the perfect flaky container for marvelous meats, cheeses and vegetables.

Eight of us were barreling down a back road in central Chile singing "Why, why, why, Delilah?" at the tops of our lungs after a day of wine tasting in the Maipo Valley. We were heading back to our hotel when our tour guide, Oscar, suggested we stop for take-out empanadas.

He knew the perfect place. It was like a roadside McDonald's except they made and sold only empanadas. The place was jammed and there were three men in the parking lot directing cars to available spaces. Oscar came back with a heaping box of the most heavenly empanadas.

Like pasta in Italy and burgers in America, every region of Latin America has its own best-in-the-world recipes for making empanadas. Brazil has pastéis, Mexico pastes Pachuqueños, Ecuador empanadas de viento and Argentina the mouthwatering Mendocinas (empanadas from the Mendoza region), and every region of Argentina has its own variation.

I had been to Venga Empanadas in San Francisco's Mission District and was delighted when a second location opened late last year on Main Street in Redwood City. Argentine empanadas are baked, not fried, and Venga offers at least 18 varieties, both meat and veggie, along with a half-dozen homemade soups, crisp salads, desserts and Argentine specialty foods.

The three principals of the restaurant bring a variety of experience. Paula Capovilla is from Patagonia; Alicia Jimenez is from Mexico City; and Pablo Romano is from Argentina.

Romano said that in his younger days, he owned a campground/boat rental operation near the Atlantic coast. Nearby, he ran a roadside parrilla, a traditional Argentine iron barbecue grill. He is also an artist, graphic designer and musician.

It's that broad range of experience and entrepreneurial spirit that often coalesces into something delightful -- in this case, empanadas, although the original founder of Venga, Manuel Godino, has moved on.

My favorite empanadas at the new Redwood City outpost were the Argentine beef ($3.95) made with beef, onions, red bell pepper and hard-boiled egg. The savory aji gallina ($3.95) with chicken, onions, yellow bell pepper, tomatoes, parsley, cumin, saffron, chile flakes and cayenne pepper was spicy but not hot.

There are plenty of options for vegetarians, too. The California veggie ($3.95) was filled with spinach, Napa cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, raisins and almonds. The three-cheese-and-walnut empanada ($3.95) with mozzarella, blue and Monterey jack cheeses; onions; and caramelized walnuts was both creamy and crunchy.

On a cool day, the hearty vegan white bean soup came with white beans, onions, peppers, celery, mushrooms and tomatoes. The cold chunky tomato gazpacho soup is a must on warm summer days. All soups cost $6.25 for 16 oz. (enough for two).

The products at Venga on Main Street are made in a commissary five blocks away rather than trucked down from San Francisco. Not making products on the premises, though, can be problematic when particular flavors run low. One suggestion is to order ahead for pickup or take potluck when you arrive. Every empanada I tried was warmed to order, the soft and tender ingredients tucked inside a crisp, flaky coat.

If you dine at the restaurant, seating is limited, but there is wine, beer and sangria as a consolation and maybe you could sing, "Why, why, why, Delilah?"

Venga Empanadas

822 Main St., Redwood City

650-549-8932

vengaempanadas.com

Hours: Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5-8 p.m.

Reservations: no

Credit cards: yes

Parking: street

Alcohol: beer and wine

Happy hour: no

Corkage: n/a

Children: yes

Takeout: yes

Outdoor dining: no

Noise level: moderate

Bathroom cleanliness: excellent

Comments

parent
Midtown
on Jun 14, 2018 at 12:59 pm
parent, Midtown
on Jun 14, 2018 at 12:59 pm

I wish Palo Alto had restaurants like this. Too much traffic and parking problems for us to drive up to Redwood City to visit this place.


Rob
Atherton
on Jun 14, 2018 at 9:20 pm
Rob, Atherton
on Jun 14, 2018 at 9:20 pm

@Parent
"Too much traffic and parking problems for us to drive up to Redwood City"
Redwood City is 10 minutes away from you. It's ok to come out of our bubble sometimes @Parent. No need to act as if Redwood City is so far away. Don't be ashamed, these people are our neighbors. Redwood City is becoming a nicer place every day. Friendly people too. You should "drive up to Redwood City" sometime @Parent. I know, I know...that horrible 10 minute drive.


parent
Midtown
on Jun 14, 2018 at 10:02 pm
parent, Midtown
on Jun 14, 2018 at 10:02 pm

Hey whiner, driving to Redwood City and finding parking for a weekday dinner takes way longer than 10 minutes. This place is not open on weekends and parking in Redwood City is even worse at lunch.


ChrusC
College Terrace
on Jun 15, 2018 at 12:15 am
ChrusC, College Terrace
on Jun 15, 2018 at 12:15 am

It’s really easy to take the train to Redwood City.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 15, 2018 at 12:40 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jun 15, 2018 at 12:40 am

Re Redwood City, we went to a show at Club Fox tonight and sailed right into a parking space at 7:45 even though Court House Square across from the Fox was packed with several hundred people watching outdoor movies for Thurs. Movie Night.


Experienced Parent
Palo Alto High School
on Jun 15, 2018 at 2:04 am
Experienced Parent, Palo Alto High School
on Jun 15, 2018 at 2:04 am

Parking in downtown Palo Alto isn't a piece of cake either. The restaurant is 12 minutes, 8 miles away, so you'd sink in about 30 minutes with rush hour and parking. Note that they close between 3:00-5:00 daily.

I drive my kids 30 minutes to sports practices or camps because I want the best. I also drive 30 minutes to dinner on weekdays. Many parents won't drive outside of Palo Alto for their kids. I guess it's easy to get lazy when everything is within arms reach here.

@parent - Be happy to be living in Palo Alto. Many people commute 3-4 hours each day. It's summer vacation so there is more time to try the restaurant.



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