Inside their restaurant on Normandy Drive in Miami Beach, chefs Abraham Herrera and Angel di Frisco spend their days cooking side-by-side, churning out a lineup of traditional Venezuelan fare, including arepas, cachapas, tequeños, and other foods they grew up eating.
Natives of Los Teques, the capital city of the Venezuelan state of Miranda, they set up shop in 2017 after a chance encounter in Miami, to which they had moved to escape their country's economic collapse. Over the past two years, they have seen their spot — 7ty One Restaurant & Coffee — become a lively destination not only for South American expats but also for the curious and the hungry.
Contemporary pop music fills the 30-seater's indoor dining room, where Herrera's wife, Liliana Arguinzones, constantly checks in on customers to ensure they are enjoying their meals. 7ty One specializes in traditional Venezuelan breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes but also offers hamburgers, pasta, seafood, and American pub grub such as chicken wings and quesadillas.
"We knew from the start that this area was not Venezuelan, and in the end, the majority of our clientele turned out to be not Spanish-speaking but actually North American," says Arguinzones, who has owned a restaurant with her husband in their hometown for the past 13 years. "We cater to them, and as they keep coming in and trying different things, they take a liking to our country's cuisine."
Most popular at 7ty One are the arepas, Venezuela's cornmeal cakes that are naturally gluten-free. The restaurant serves 18 variations, including domino with black beans and Santa Barbara cheese ($8.99); lomo negro stuffed with roasted loin, black beans, sweet plantain, and Santa Barbara cheese ($11.50); and classic reina pepiada (curvy queen), a homage to the first Miss Venezuela, Susana Duijm, and her favorite arepa stuffing of shredded chicken and creamy sauce ($8.99).
Larger plates are pabellón criollo, Venezuela's national dish with white rice, black beans, and fried plantains ($12.99); and asado negro, marinated eye round cooked with raw brown sugar, green pepper, and onion ($14.99). There's also grilled salmon with mushrooms and aioli ($16.99), parrilla rib-eye for two ($55), and the 7ty One sampler, including tequeños (fried breaded white cheese sticks, cachapas, (grilled corn pancakes filled with organic white "de mano" cheese), the deep-fried sweet and slaty cornmeal rings called mandocas, fried empanadas filled with beef, and crisp tostones crowned with shredded beef and pink sauce ($21.99).
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Aside from offering an assortment of baked goods, the restaurant also serves desserts such as guava and cheese croissants ($3.50), Nutella pizza ($10.99), tres leches cake ($5.50), and hot brownies served with ice cream ($9.50).
Guests can choose from wine, beer, signature coffee blends, and lattes such as dulce de leche and iced chai ($4.50), along with juices made with papelón con limón ($5.50), mango and passionfruit ($4.90), and a blend of spinach, green apple, lemon, cucumber, pineapple, kiwi, and ginger ($6.99).
"In an area where even restaurants are transient, we've lasted because of how fresh our food is," says Di Frisco, who learned to cook by bouncing between restaurant kitchens in Rome, where he lived for six years. "We make as much as we can in-house: The empanadas, arepas, breads are all our recipes. I've traveled to Homestead to get the good-quality corn to cook with. Nothing we use is ever frozen."
7ty One Restaurant & Coffee. 1130 Normandy Dr., Miami Beach; 786- 495-5181; seventyonerestaurantcoffee.com. Daily 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.