Venezuelan Christmas at a Rego Park Pizzeria
Tu Arepa Pizza Café’s plato navideno.
One of the coolest things about pizzerias in Queens is ethnic hybridization. Sometimes it takes the form of outright fusion—witness the falafel slice—and sometimes a separate cuisine coexists with the pizza. The latter is the case at Tu Arepa Pizza Café a spot that sells slices side by side with such Venezuelan specialties as cachapas and arepas.
Tu Arepa’s Venezuelan Christmas tamale.
Come Yuletide, Christmas treats are available. These include hallacas ($8)—giant tamales filled with chicken, pork, and olives—and pan de jamon ($28), a rather sizable loaf of sweet bread filled with ham, olives, and raisins. Both are savory, decidely Queens alternatives to fruitcake.
For $15 you can also score a plato navideno, or Christmas plate. It consists of pernil, a hallaca, a slice of pan de jamon, and chicken and potato salad. It’s quite a feast, and the slice of warm pan de jamon is simply wonderful. On the day I stopped by they were out of the chicken and potato salad, so they substituted a green salad. To tell the truth I was glad they did.
Venezuelan Christmas Tamales Found in a Forest Hills Pizzeria
Tu Arepa opened just in time to start selling hallacas for Christmas.
Tu Arepa Pizza Cafe stands in the grand tradition of Queens pizzerias with a sideline in ethnic eats. At Tu Arepa, that sideline is the griddled corn cakes known as arepas and other Venezuelan specialties. Come Christmastime that means hallacas ($8) and pan de jamon ($28), both yuletide favorites back home in Puerto La Cruz. A mixture of pork and chicken studded with raisins, green olives, chopped potato, and peppers fills the rustic hallaca at Tu Arepa. (In case you are wondering about that pan de jamon (ham and olive bread) all of tomorrow’s 18-inch loaves are presold, but the shop will be taking orders though the end of the year.)
Tu Arepa was once a kosher pizzeria.
Once upon a time Tu Arepa was a kosher pizzeria. As of three days ago it became the only Venezuelan spot in Rego Park. It’s also the only pizzeria/Venezuelan spot I have come across. I was going to get an arepa after the tasty hallaca, but that would have been too gluttonous even for me.
Tu Arepa’s cachapa enfolds salty cheese in a corn studded discus.
Instead I opted for a cachapa ($3). I suppose you could call it a Venezuelan calzone, but only because it contains a salty mozzarella-like cheese. A disc of sweet dough studded with corn kernels is fold over salty queso de mano.
I have already asked the folks at Tu Arepa if they’d be willing to top a slice of pizza with carne mechada, a Venezuelan shredded beef stew that’s a popular filling for arepas. Who knows they just might do it, after all stranger things have happened to pizza in Queens.