The Right Stuff

A new source for Venezuelan arepas

A young couple may run Aripo's, but the recipes are far from newfangled.

The new Oak Park counter-service spot is home to traditional Venezuelan dishes. Recipes come from owner Jose Rodriguez's mother, a Venezuela resident, stellar home cook and the restaurant's chef.

Though the overstuffed cornmeal arepas are meals in themselves, start with tostones (fried green plantains; $5), if only as a vehicle for the roasted red pepper sauce. Boliquesos, fried balls of cornmeal and salty white cheese ($5), are surprisingly flavorful. As is the cachapa, a fresh corn pancake folded around the same mild cheese.

Arepas (all about $5), cornmeal cakes that are split and stuffed, come in 19 varieties. The La Nuestra is an arepa version of the country's national dish (pabellón), with shredded beef, black beans and sweet plantains. The vegetarian Conuquera pairs sautéed peppers and onions with fried plantains and black beans.

A tip: Keep plenty of guasacaca–parsley-avocado sauce–close at hand to pour over everything. We also suggest having a papelón con limón–limeade sweetened with cane sugar–at the ready.

Both make the restaurant an essential addition to any Oak Park eating itinerary.

Aripo's Venezuelan Arepa House, 118 N. Marion St., Oak Park; 708-386-1313 or aripos.com