And those who visit his downtown Harrisburg restaurant, Arepa City, look forward both to chatting with the ever-present, typically smiling businessman and dining on his delicious cuisine, which is based upon the Venezuelan staple known as an arepa.
“He really cares about his customers and wants everyone to have an enjoyable experience,” said Camp Hill resident Allen Gordon, who considers himself a regular and has been frequenting the establishment since it opened.
Gordon and his wife even took friends who were visiting from Venezuela to the restaurant, and they gave the food rave reviews.
Farias began his career in the hospitality industry working on a cruise line after leaving his native country.
“I started out as a busboy; it was the only position they were able to give me,” he said, explaining that he knew little English at the time. “I then decided that I wanted to grow and made up my mind to master the language in order to open up better opportunities.”
Farias turned out to be a quick and astute learner, and, before long, he was promoted to assistant manager.
While working on the cruise ship, Farias met his wife Mildred, who was living in Boston. So, he decided to move there and began working in a hotel. His career eventually took him to Florida, and then Hershey Entertainment came knocking, so he moved Mildred and his twin daughters Diliana and Daniela to the central Pennsylvania area, where he became banquet director at the Hershey Lodge.
Farias, though, dreamed of working for himself, so was always on alert for the opportunity. When he heard that a small, turnkey establishment was for sale on N. 2nd Street in Harrisburg, he decided to investigate.
“Turns out the owner wanted out, and I wanted in, so it was mutually beneficial,” he said.
For Farias, who studied at culinary school back in Venezuela and spent his career in hospitality, making the decision to open a restaurant was a no-brainer. Choosing what to serve was an equally easy decision.
“I decided to stick with what I know best, which is my cuisine,” he said. “In Venezuela, I grew up eating arepas almost every day and wanted to offer the public authentic Venezuelan cuisine. If you go to my country tomorrow and ask for an arepa, you will get the same thing.”
Arepas are a sandwich, a bit like a pita, with the dough made from corn meal, salt, sugar and water, said Farias. Customers can choose from a variety of fillings, including pork, lamb, chicken, chorizo, beans, flank steak—whatever strikes their fancy.
“Since it’s a bread, anything goes with it,” he said. “Only a few people have asked me to customize them according to what they want, but I want people to feel free to do that, too.”
Patrons also can order other Venezuelan specialties like pernil asado, which is slow-roasted pork leg, cassava sticks and spicy cabbage, and patacones—green plantain open sandwiches that are offered with a selection of toppings from shredded flank steak to chicken to avocado salad.
Ana Yost lives in Etters and makes the trip to the restaurant often.
“My daughters and I love it there,” she said. “He puts his special touch on every dish. Everything is fresh, and he comes out and talks to people, too.”
For Farias, the future looks bright, as he plans to continue pleasing his patrons for years to come.
“I’m very positive about Harrisburg and the renewed focus on business in the area,” he said. “I know that this restaurant is unique in many ways. There is no restaurant around here similar to this. Philly is the closest, and they say this is better.”
Then, with a laugh, he adds, “Who knows?”
Arepa City is located at 316 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.arepacity.com or call 717-233-3332.