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New eatery serves up empanadas, tamales

By: Sonney Wolfe, Placer Herald Correspondent
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A recession is no time to open a restaurant, but partners Nora Carino and Joe Raquiza did it anyway. Empanadas N Buns, a family restaurant owned and operated by Carino and Raquiza, opened Feb. 10, and is situated in the Willowrock Shopping Plaza center on the northeast corner of Fivestar Boulevard and Stanford Ranch Road in Rocklin. The 1,200-square-foot restaurant seats 20 and serves Filipino food, coffees and smoothies, Raquiza said. The dishes are not only Filipino, but also Chinese and Spanish inspired. “Indigenous dishes blended with flavors brought by Chinese traders and the spices of the conquistadores comprise this versatile cuisine,” Raquiza said, quoting Doreen Fernandez from the book, “The Food of the Philippines: Authentic Recipes from the Pearl of the Orient.” From Chinese origins are the lumpia (like a fried spring roll stuffed with pork or vegetables), and the buns (like a dinner roll stuffed with pork and either baked or steamed). The tamales are Spanish, and the rest is Filipino: empanadas (dough stuffed and fried with meat and vegetables, or baked like a pastry with various vegetables or fruit), pork adobo (a national favorite among Filipino dishes), pansit (noodles), apritada (like a stew with olives and peppers), halo-halo (a delicacy dessert) and more, Raquiza and Carino said. When Carino first said she wanted to open a restaurant, Raquiza said, “No, I don’t think so. The economy is bad right now … restaurants are closing everywhere.” But Carino persisted saying there would be no other time, and finally Raquiza agreed. Now, Raquiza makes and serves lattés, mochas and cappuccinos using Vaneli’s coffee, a local Rocklin roastery, and Carino cooks all the food. “The recipes are all original,” Carino said. They also have Karaoke. “The Karaoke machine is there for whoever wants to sing. Sometimes I sing, too,” Raquiza said, calling himself “the singing barista.” Originally from Luzon, in the Philippines, Carino infuses her recipes with her knowledge of food and flavors from the three Philippine regions such as Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. She holds a bachelor’s in education with a major in food technology. But she hasn’t always run a restaurant. Carino retired after spending most of her career as an independent insurance agent. She said she used to eat at a Filipino restaurant on her lunch break while running her Allstate agency. “I look at this woman every day for lunch, frying empanadas, and I say, ‘What am I doing in my office, not doing the things that I have studied in school. I wonder if I can make that (empanadas)?’” From there, Carino started developing her empanada recipes and tested them out on friends, people at her agency and even the UPS man, Carino said. “All of the sudden, I don’t have the desire to continue my Allstate. I want to do something else,” Carino said. So she sold her agency and retired, for a little bit. Raquiza, who now spends most of his time with Empanadas N Buns’ customers, is also from the Philippines,the main city of Manila, and was a financial planner by profession, before retiring. Raquiza said after spending two-and-a-half years in retirement, both he and Carino were bored. “I wasn’t doing anything to make me useful ... That’s when I started going to Adventure (Church in Roseville) finding what to do,”Carino said. Carino volunteered to cook empanadas for her bible study group and for the homeless when Gathering Inn came to Adventure. She also volunteered for Love them Both Ministries, showing young mothers how to pull meals together using odds and ends from the pantry and also teaching them how to decorate cakes. Carino said cooking for the homeless and helping others reminded her how much she loved cooking. “I started praying,” Carino said. “I asked God, ‘If I could use my talent that I have received from you to bless others, would you open the door for me?’ And he did.” After a year of settling details and trusting God to find a place, Carino and Raquiza moved into their current location. Adventure Church, Rocklin Chamber of Commerce, many friends and relatives came to the grand opening. “Nora is a unique talent … She has a Mediterranean and Moroccan palate,” Raquiza said, noting that wherever they eat, Carino can identify ingredients used in dishes, just by tasting it. Customers Gover Ebarle and Jenny Melgo said they first came to Empanadas because they are Filipino and wanted to support the Filipino business, but the delicious lumpias and buns are what brought them back. Another customer, Ramona Lewis, said, “The lumpia brought me back.” “The lumpia is a favorite here with customers,” Raquiza said. Empanadas N Buns is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. They close Mondays to run errands and currently do not deliver, take reservations or serve alcohol, but they do offer catering for birthdays, weddings and parties. Empanadas N Buns Where: 6661 Standford Ranch Road, Ste. E Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; closed Monday Info: 899-6888; empanadasnbuns.net