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Foodie Friday: Ottawa, have you tried the arepas yet?

By Devora Cascante on December 5, 2014

Arepa, a kind of corn bread made from pre-cooked corn flour, is my favourite food. Of course, I’m biased because it’s a staple in my native Colombia. It also features prominently in the cuisine in Venezuela, where the Granati family, who run Gooney’s Sandwich Works out of an office tower on Laurier, have roots. Gooney’s is the only place in town that serves anything like them.

Crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, the versatile arepa (pronounced “ah-ray-pah”) can be eaten at every meal. Prepared flat and coated with butter and salt, they’re the South American answer to the tortilla. Made thick enough, they can be sliced in half and stuffed with whatever you want. They’re a great, gluten-free wrapper for a hearty sandwich, which happens to be Gooney’s specialty.

Luis Granati (right) with his family and staff.

Luis Granati (right) with his family and staff.

In 2012, a year after buying Gooney’s, Luis Granati introduced Arepafest, opening the shop one Saturday to offer some South American flavour to its loyal clientele, the Latin community, and anyone looking to try something new. At Arepafest, the Granatis crafted savoury arepa sandwiches with a variety of fillings, like shredded beef, chicken salad, pork, tuna and, perfect for my vegetarian taste buds, black beans, feta cheese and plantain.

In March 2013, Luis added arepas to the breakfast menu, filling them with chicken and avocado (the “Reina Pepiada”),  scrambled eggs with feta (the “Criolla”) and bacon or ham with eggs and cheddar (the “Perico”), making them fresh daily.

It must be going well since, for the past two months, Luis has been featuring them on the lunch menu as well. The lunchtime arepas are bigger and heartier than the breakfast offerings. Luis tells me the best selling one is the Pabellon — stuffed with black beans, shredded beef, feta and plantain, topped with cilantro salsa. You can check out the special menu on their Facebook page.

This Saturday and next, Luis will be hosting another Arepafest. If you’re never in the business district during the lunch hour, this is your chance to check it out. The arepas are delicious and the Granatis are warm and welcoming.

See you there!

Arepafest is happening on Saturday, December 6 and 13 from 9am – 2pm. Gooney’s is located at 360 Laurier Ave West. They are open from 7am – 4pm, Monday – Friday.