When Clara Cedeno was planning her restaurant, La Patria Cafe, she considered taking on the chef duties herself. After all, the menu is based around the Latin and Caribbean foods she grew up eating and making in New York City with her family. The empanadas, the plantain chips, the moro (rice and beans cooked together) are all based on the recipes she learned from her family, who are from the Dominican Republic.
But a friend with restaurant experience told her to hire a chef and stay in the front of the restaurant. The advice matched Cedeno's own philosophy - customers should be cared for from their first step onto the property.
"I want you to feel like you are at a friend's house," Cedeno said Friday, about three weeks after opening at 115 Green St. in the Hawley-Green neighborhood. "Like you're hanging out at your friend's house and eating good food."
The setting at La Patria matches that goal. The cafe is in a former house, just across the street from Laci's Tapas Bar. Cedeno actually bought the building from Laci's owners Cindy Seymour and Laura Serway.
La Patria is open for lunches on weekdays. Cedeno plans to expand into dinner service, with a full bar. That will take more construction - an expansion to the kitchen and adding a separate dining space upstairs. That also means the menu will get larger and include more dishes from and inspired by Latin American and Caribbean foods.
"We're not just a Dominican restaurant," she said. "I want to incorporate many dishes on the menu."
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