Arepas, empanadas, tequeños - and the best white cheese
A Venezuelan cafe in Fazakerley? This I had to see for myself, and I wasn’t the only adventurous soul who had made the journey to this humble little restaurant on Longmoor Lane on a Sunday afternoon.
Queso blanco is one of the things that the Venezuelan community misses the most
“There’s a lot more Venezuelan people in Liverpool than you’d think - for example, I just met this guy today,” Jean D’Amico tells me, pointing to a man who is conversing in fluent Spanish with Jean’s mother at the next table.
“Amazing food, as good as home” is the tagline at NOSO. Jean and his business partner, Miguel Pereira, were inspired by food from an early age in Venezuela. Miguel's family have been producing milk and cheese in San Cristobal since he was a little boy, and he’s been passionate about this ever since.
Jean also came from a family of farmers who moved out of Italy to Venezuela in the 1950s. Throughout his life, and true to his Italian heritage, love has been always demonstrated through food, both in the joy of preparation and sharing meals with family and friends.
Miguel and Jean met in Liverpool and became great friends, sharing their joy, passion and love for great food. From there, they decided to bring something of their love for Venezuelan food to the people of Liverpool.
The name NOSO comes from North and South and is a tribute to their origins in the Northernmost country in South America.
“We opened after the first lockdown,” says Jean.
“We literally got the keys a week before the actual lockdown. We used all that time to build the business and do the amendments inside the restaurant.
“We looked at the premises and said, well, what we want to do is start a business that we could afford. That gave us a little bit of juggling space to work on how to grow.”
The time and hard work certainly paid off and NOSO’s reputation for authentic Venezuelan street food - including arepas, empanadas and tequeños - has put it on the Liverpool foodie map.
Arepas are a Venezuelan corn flour flatbread, typically filled with a variety of toppings. At NOSO, you can order a “Pimped out queeny” (shredded chicken with avocado) or “Old clothes” (shredded beef with grated cheddar cheese).
“We just want to show off a little bit of our culture and what we are and those things are typical Venezuelan,” says Jean.
“We have vegan options as well, because we want to be as inclusive as we can. The 'Veg love' is now our most popular arepa, which comes with black beans, sweet plantain and guacamole. We are very gluten-free as well. For us, it’s always been gluten-free and we didn’t even know!”
The menu also includes “Let me see John”, a traditional breakfast dish that brings together all the different flavours of the typical Venezuelan cuisine - shredded beef, black beans, avocado, egg, sweet plantain, topped with handmade NOSO cheese and signature arepa.
Jean explains that “Let me see John” comes from the original Spanish name for the dish - pabellón.
“We’re trying to keep a little bit of the name, but make it Venezuelan,” he says.
“It’s not just about Venezuela though. Most of our regular customers are British. We went from the first couple of months, selling one arepa a day and ten or fifteen burgers, to now selling about 20 arepas, and three four burgers a day.”
All of NOSO’s ingredients are made from scratch, including queso blanco, a cheese found throughout Latin America that literally just means “white cheese”.
“That’s one of the things the Venezuelan community misses the most. In Peru and Mexico, they eat a lot of white cheese,” says Jean.
“That cheese is normally called queso blanco, which doesn’t say anything. Like, halloumi is a white cheese. There are so many cheeses that are white.
“Miguel came one day with tequeños and I was like, ‘that’s amazing, where did you find the cheese?’ And he said he made it.
“So, we’re trying to get our brand on our cheese. We’re trying to get something that shows where we come from and associating that to us. We can tell a story about it. We can tell you where it comes from.
“We make everything in the daytime. The milk comes from a very good farm called Hopewall Farm, and they’re working with us together to be able to produce our cheese.”
NOSO currently supplies its cheese to Venezuelan restaurants in London.
The future plan is to introduce a cheese factory to the site on Longmoor Lane, as well as an additional space for frozen products like empanadas, black beans, and tequeños - a Latin pastry that can be served savoury with cheese and salsa, or sweet with Nutella.
“We want to bring all of the things from our culture to supermarkets and households eventually,” says Jean.
“There’s quite a few white cheeses around and I know it’s not going to sound humble, but that’s the best fresh cheese I’ve ever tasted. And I’m not saying that because it’s ours - it’s just because it is.”
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