“Little Colombia” Draws A “Latino Salsa” Of Customers

Lucy Gellman PhotoThere is a big Colombian presence in the New Haven area, and it can be experienced — and savored — at The Little Colombia restaurant. There Rosalba Vera and her husband, Julio Cesar, serve traditional Colombian dishes such as camarón y piña asada, ceviche, and paella marinara.

Cesar has been a professional chef for over 40 years. Before opening a precursory restaurant to The Little Colombia in Bridgeport, both Cesar and Vera (pictured above) worked at a Colombian restaurant in New York City. This was Vera’s first stint in the restaurant business. Back in Colombia, she had worked in banking firms, but due to language barriers and her undocumented status here in the U.S., Vera had to change industries.

Vera and Cesar decided they wanted to work for themselves, the told Norma Rodriguez-Reyes during an appearance on her WNHH radio show, “K Pasa.”

“It has rice, it has beans, it has steak, it has chicken, it has eggs, it has plantains, a fried dough, and also agaucate,” Rodriguez-Reyes said of the restaurant’s bandeja paisa. “It’s definitely a lot of food!”

The couple first opened shop in Bridgeport, then opened The Little Colombia at 672 Main St. in East Haven. There Vera estimates her clientele is 70 percent Italian, with the rest a mixture of Brazilian, Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian, Peruvian, and Mexican—a “Latino salsa,” Rodriguez-Reyes remarked.

Vera and Cesar came to the U.S. 23 years ago in pursuit of better education opportunities for their two daughters, who continue to help out at The Little Colombia after earning degrees in international business administration and engineering systems.

When asked by Rodriguez-Reyes for advice on opening a restaurant, Vera said it’s important to know all the rules, regulations, and legalities of the industry, to have enough start-up money, and, most importantly, the drive it takes to own a restaurant.

It doesn’t hurt to have good customers either, of which Little Colombia has many, Vera said.

Click on the above sound file to hear the full interview, firs tin English, then in Spanish.

WNHH’s “Open For Business” series on WNHH-FM and in the Independent is made possible in part through support from Frontier Communications.

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