Venezuelan Culture Shines at Paramo Cafe and Restaurant

Good Bite

Pictured: The Venezuelan Party Plate from Paramo, Photo by Laura Paquette.

Sipping a coffee under the slanted glass window in Paramo Cafe and Restaurant, it’s easy to forget that you’re in Sarasota, and not in a mountainside Venezuelan cafe surrounded by fellow travelers. The paramos, or moors, are cool, hilly ecosystems dotted with charming small towns frequented by vacationers, like Adelina Vera and her three daughters. While Vera moved to the United States from Venezuela 24 years ago, the country still holds a piece of her heart. Free time during the pandemic inspired her to channel her lifetime passion for cooking and love for both Venezuelan and American cultures into a new project, Paramo, which she opened in the summer of 2021 and runs as the principal chef.

“The paramo is a beautiful place in Venezuela where everyone is friendly and enjoys good food,” says Vera. Inside the restaurant, guests feel transported to the cozy mountain villages that inspired its name. Tiny houses with ceramic tile roofs, like those found in Merida, a city located in the paramo, decorate the space, adding splashes of color and a welcoming touch to every corner, doorway and shelf. Wooden furniture and warm lighting create a rustic, laid-back asethetic. A world map, also made of wood, runs along the back wall above a display case of mugs from across the globe, a fitting feature for a restaurant specializing in coffee. “I tasted varieties from every country,” she adds, “but I chose to feature coffee from the paramo.” Because the Venezuelan paramo shares a border with Colombia, Vera imports Colombian coffee, which she blends with an American variety to create a more familiar taste for guests. “That’s the point of having the map and wall of mugs from all over,” she says. “Paramo is open for everyone to enjoy.”

Vera’s dedication to embracing global flavors is reflected not only in the restaurant’s decor, but in its menu, which features Venezuelan and American favorites as well as dishes with an Italian, Indian and Japanese flair. The menu reads like a love letter to the cuisines and people that have shaped Vera and her life. While there’s something for everyone to enjoy, she recommends that anyone who’s never tried Venezuelan food order the Venezuelan Party Plate. This appetizer offers a mini sampling of the nation’s most famous dishes, like empanadas with a delectable chicken filling and arepas, cornmeal disks stuffed with tender meat and cheese. The plate also comes with cachapas, a cake made from corn kernels. Fresh cheese is sandwiched between the cakes, which are topped with a yogurt-like sauce, adding an unexpected dimension to the sweet corn. Along with cachapas, the plate includes tequenos, a Venzuelan party staple consisiting of llanero cheese wrapped in dough. This appetizer provides a helpful introduction to the rest of the menu and the country of Venezuela as a whole. “So many people don’t know anything about Venezuela aside from its political situation,” she adds, “and I want to show that Venezuela is a beautiful place.”

Moving to the United States gave Vera and her daughters a wealth of new opportunities, including the chance to open Paramo and share Venezuelan cuisine with others. “Half of my heart is in the United States, and half is in Venezuela,” she says.

Paramo Cafe and Restaurant, 3700 N. Lockwood Ridge Rd., Sarasota, paramorestaurant.com.

Pictured: The Venezuelan Party Plate from Paramo, Photo by Laura Paquette.

Paramo Cafe and Restaurant

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