Make us your home page
Instagram

Venezuelan restaurant debuts in Land O'Lakes

Jose Sebastiani, left, co-owner of Tia Mina, prepares an order of arepitas dulces, a sweetened corn patty, alongside Aurora Gonzales and Ray Ferrer at the Venezuelan restaurant.

KERI WIGINTON | Times

Jose Sebastiani, left, co-owner of Tia Mina, prepares an order of arepitas dulces, a sweetened corn patty, alongside Aurora Gonzales and Ray Ferrer at the Venezuelan restaurant.

LAND O'LAKES — The arepa arrives on a white plate as an ambassador for Venezuela.

It's a half-inch-thick corn cake, fried brown in giraffe patches, folded with Spanish white cheese, and served hot in what the brothers-in-law of Tia Mina proclaim the only Venezuelan restaurant in the Tampa Bay area.

Tia Mina is the latest Latin American venture in central Pasco County, and the restaurant's hallmark is food from the former Spanish colony on the northern coast of South America, where a European flair still dominates.

"So you have things like tilapia italiana, which has green olives, capers, wine, tomatoes," said Jose Sebastiani, the 48-year-old chef of the seven-table joint on State Road 54, next to Lifestyle Family Fitness. "Because we have so many Italians there and Spanish, too."

Three months ago, Sebastiani was an operations manager for a medical supply company in Michigan. His partner and brother-in-law, Jose Moronta, 56, was a medical supplies exporter in Tampa.

But Moronta saw a gift for cooking in his brother-in-law, and aided by their wives Cecilia and Noelia, who is Sebastiani's sister, they launched Tia Mina five weeks ago.

It's been buzzing in the last two weeks, Moronta said.

"People come from Pinellas, Hillsborough, even Hernando," Moronta said. "This is the only Venezuelan restaurant in the Tampa Bay area."

The curry is greenish with sage here at Tia Mina, which owes its name to Sebastiani's grandmother.

The cachapa is "exactly like a pancake, but made of sweet corn," Moronta said.

"Jose uses a lot of corn, because we use a lot of corn in our country," Moronta said. "A lot of Venezuelan specialities are based on corn."

Like the arepa, which can also be stuffed with shredded beef or shrimp or avocado salad.

"Instead of a hamburger, people can eat an arepa," Moronta said, sounding a little mystified on why they didn't already.

And the bienmesabe, which has no real equivalent word in English.

Bien means good, me means me, and sabe means taste.

It's just a Venezuelan coconut cream cake whose name is a charming mash for "tastes good to me."

There's another name for bienmesabe on the Tia Mina menu. It's typed in brackets: "Wow! Cream cake."

That's thanks to a customer who tried the cake but couldn't pronounce its name, Moronta said.

"He just said wow!"

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4613.

Venezuelan restaurant debuts in Land O'Lakes 07/03/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 10, 2008 6:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients

    Business

    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel

    Business

    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal

    News

    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]