Antonio Rodriguez had simple reasons for opening his no-frills Avila Bistro in a Biscayne Boulevard strip mall in Aventura. The rent was cheap, he said, and friends told him of a large, underserved Venezuelan population after he arrived here from Caracas about a year ago.
"Behind Doral and Weston they're all here," he says.
Now, they flood in in the mornings for traditional, quick Venezuelan meals.
"I worked in an American bistro before, but I wanted to get back to do doing my food, arepas, cachapas, and tequeños with all of that," he says.
The best time to find it all is in the morning, when Rodriguez turns out plates hefty plates crowned by a white cornmeal arepa with cross-hatched grill marks.
The Caraqueño ($9.75) is a nod to his hometown where he was raised and went to culinary school. Split open the thick steamy arepa and pack it full of his herbaceous carne mechada, salty queso blanco and avocado. The same dish can be had with refried black beans, or the arepa can be filed with scrambled eggs, pork and onion.
Though the menu says they're only available for breakfast until 11:30 a.m., don't be afraid to ask Rodriguez to put one together. Otherwise there are at least a dozen other arepa options available throughout the rest of the day. Opt for the reina pepiada with avocado and chicken salad ($6.99) or the hearty, vegetarian friendly domino with white cheese and black beans ($6.50). While the fried bread spears filled with queso blanco called tequeños are hidden alongside Italian-Venezuelan fusion like asado negro risotto don't hesitate to ask for the cachapas. The sweet, yellow corn arepas are best when filled with a slab of queso mano.
He's even found himself catering to the crowd that might also frequent the popular breakfast spot Bagel Cove just up the road.
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"If you come and tell me you don't eat meat, or you can't eat meat and cheese I'll still make something for you," he says. "The other day I made an arepa with arugula, mozzarella, and tomato."
Avila Bistro is located at 17951 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura; 786-440-7296.