Restaurants

Ellana’s Kitchen & More is one of the best places to get an arepa in North America

Yelp included the Newton restaurant among the top 25 spots for arepas.

Reina Pepiada at Ellana's Kitchen & More
Reina Pepiada at Ellana's Kitchen & More. Miguel Contessi

If you know them, you (probably) love them: Arepas, a versatile South American dish stuffed with myriad combinations of ingredients, can be the perfect afternoon snack or a substantial meal. And, according to Yelp, one Newton restaurant makes some of the best arepas in the country.

Yelp recently released its list of the top 25 places to get arepas in North America, and included Ellana’s Kitchen & More in the No. 2 spot.

Along with Mediterranean and American classics, the Newton restaurant focuses on Venezuelan specialties, including a line-up of roughly 10 arepas served with hot or mild sauce. Diners can find selections like the Arepa Perico, made with eggs, onions, tomatoes, and cheese; the Arepa Reina Pepiada, featuring chicken salad and avocado; and the Arepa Pabellón, which co-owner Miguel Contessi said is the restaurant’s most popular arepa. Made with shredded beef, black beans, queso blanco, and sweet plantains, Contessi said it’s the ideal combination of savory and sweet.

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Contessi and his wife, Isabel Aoun, opened Ellana’s in 2017 after moving to Massachusetts from Venezuela more than two decades ago. Aoun’s Lebanese background has influenced some of the Mediterranean dishes — falafel plates, Greek salad — offered at Ellana’s, though the restaurant’s arepas are the biggest draw.

“[The arepas] are very healthy,” Contessi said. “We make them in house, and they’re made with corn flour, water, and salt. We make them on the griddle, so there is no frying involved. It’s a very easy treat to get instead of a sandwich.”

The family-owned restaurant is small, with roughly 12 seats inside and a smattering of tables outside that were added during the pandemic. Aoun heads up the kitchen, making the arepas that Contessi said many customers call comfort food.

“We have Venezuelan kids come in and eat, and the comments we get are, ‘I feel like I’m eating at home’ and ‘It tastes like my mom’s arepas,'” he said. “We get those types of comments a lot. So of course it makes us feel very proud of what we do, and now we see that it pays off.”

Out of the 25 restaurants included on Yelp’s list, Ellana’s, which has five stars and more than 140 reviews, was the only New England eatery represented. In detailing the website’s methodology, Yelp chose restaurants “that mentioned arepas in reviews and are not part of a national chain, then ranked those spots using a number of factors including the total volume and ratings of reviews.”

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Ellana’s is located at 19 Pelham St. in Newton, and is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Takeout and delivery are available.

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