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'Our vibe is a NYC summer': Sisters launch Coladas & Empanadas, honor Peruvian heritage

Three sisters from NYC have talked of owning a restaurant, food truck or food stand since they were kids. In fact, where they were 10, 8 and 6 years old, they ventured out with their cousins to sell cakes, cookies, chips and quarter waters door-to-door. Catherine Naventa, Kristal Naventa and Stephanie Naventa-Lopez hoped to build a clubhouse in their local park, and planned to use their profits to buy wood, nails, furniture and decorations.

This venture only lasted about an hour, though; after earning a few dollars, they ended up at the P.S. 60 playground eating their products.

“It's safe to say that the same entrepreneurial spirit still resonated within us,” said Cat. “It's that pit in your stomach when you see someone doing what you wish you could be doing. It never left us. So in 2021 we said, ‘Enough!’

With that declaration, they’re now sharing their passion and food with the Seattle community through their small business Coladas and Empanadas. Together they handcraft each empanada; all recipes are their own.

The sisters pay tribute to their Peruvian heritage in every way — from the way they flavor their food, to the music they listen to while cooking.

“We are proud Peruanas! You can look through our pantry and find all the essential Peruvian spices like Aji Panca, Aji Amarillo, Pallio (tumeric), Ajos, Cancha, etc,” said Stephanie.

Two of their homemade sauces are directly Peruvian, and the Aji Verde is a staple in any Peruvian restaurant or home.

“Our Peruvian Onion Relish is our version of Salsa Criolla,” said Kristal. “Typically the red onion is sliced into thin strips, but we chopped it up so it is easier to spoon into a crispy empanada, but the flavors are authentically Peruvian. We use our mom's recipe, who was the chef of the family. She would cook for every family gathering. Her papa la huancaina is famous. It's the food of our family and childhood.”

Collectively the sisters made the leap to Washington state because they realized the world is bigger than their hometown. “There are so many places in the world to explore, live in, experience, and we all wanted to have a taste of that,” said Cat.

They had fallen in love with the area, people and scenery when visiting in 2007 for their cousin’s wedding. They felt the pull of this region’s evergreens and mountains, plus the overall vibe of the PNW. Cat arrived in 2014, Kristal in 2016, and Stephanie and family in 2017. The biggest adjustments so far? The lack of a nearby Dunkin' Donuts, Dominican food or a proper bacon, egg 'n' cheese from a corner deli.

They have many ideas for items to add to their menu and love to cook in many styles. Coming from Staten Island, they grew up eating at great neighborhood restaurants, offering every cuisine imaginable, so they regularly seek inspiration from the flavors of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

“Empanadas can also be versatile,” said Stephanie. “We can do breakfast, dessert, savory, baked, fried. But we also don't want to limit ourselves to just empanadas. We recently introduced a Lomo Saltado plate which is made fresh to order.”

When it comes to cocktails, they’ve just created a Pineapple Ginger Margarita. And their father, who lives in Lima, brings back a bottle of Pisco every visit, so naturally, they’re also working on a twist to the traditional Pisco Sour.

What are the sisters’ favorite menu combos? It’s the beef and pepperoni pizza empanadas with a Tropi-Froze for Cat, the cheesy chicken and veggie empanada with a Jungle Juice for Kristal, and the pepperoni empanada with Aji and a Jungle Juice for Stephanie.

Getting the business off the ground has come with challenges, from getting their name out there to taking care of a million details they never imagined. “Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, but we always manage to figure it out,” says Cat.

Kristal says that the most surprising part has been how well customers have received their food. “Not that we doubt our ability to cook,” she comments, “but it's nerve-wracking. We only want to make delicious food and fun drinks. Our whole vibe is a NYC summer. This idea was born out of missing summertime in NYC where there is a backyard party every weekend. The drinks are flowing, the food is delicious, and the music is blasting. We miss that, so we created it here.”

The three also love photographing, creating, editing and doing all the graphic design for their own content. “It gives us a chance to be creative in different ways other than through our cooking and food," said Kristal. "They say creativity is a muscle, the more you use it the better it gets. We can't wait to see what kind of content we will be creating in the future.”

They still feel thrilled about every order notification, meaning they get to cook or pack up empanadas for delivery.

“We also enjoy blasting Eva Ayllon, salsa, bachata, 90s hip hop/R&B while we are hand crafting each empanada. That time we have together is so much fun. It gives us so much pride to present our products. We can't wait to do this forever.”

They are currently taking orders on Instagram or via email (coladasandempanadas@gmail.com). Keep an eye out for area pop-ups, and know that they’re available for catering, custom requests and parties. (They deliver or can schedule pick-ups.)

“We want our future customers to know that this company is just three sisters who believe in themselves and are following our hearts and passion. We are offering a unique homemade product that we believe the PNW will love.”

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