Maria Empanada may be making a debut at the Denver International Airport early next year, but the authentic and thoughtful Argentinian-inspired restaurant has big plans for Boulder before hungry & thirsty travelers heading in and out of Denver can get a feel for its fare.
According to founder Lorena Cantarovici, the incoming establishment will open in early October. In December, she signed a five-year lease for the 1,641-square-foot space at 2609 Pearl St. This location was previously home to the popular Salvaggio’s Italian Deli, which opened in 1994 and closed last year.
Cantarovici came to Denver in 2000 from Argentina with $300 to her name, little grasp of the English language, and “a backpack full of dreams.” When the financial crisis hit in 2008, the young entrepreneur then started selling empanadas out of her humble home kitchen to make ends meet – until a caterer ordered ten dozen of her savory, flakey creations. It was at that moment she understood her mission: “designing a ‘Lugar de Encuentro,’ a place where people can gather and connect over great food, as they do in cafés in Buenos Aires, Milano, and Paris.
In 2011, Cantarovici opened her first brick-and-mortar.
Cantarovici didn’t stop there, though. With her eclectic, on-point recipes locked down, she created something even deeper — a place where women, especially minorities of all backgrounds and those kept from the workforce by their age, could thrive and showcase their innate and life-learned culinary skills.
Soon after, Cantarovici spawned several other locations — some of which didn’t survive the pandemic, but that didn’t blur her vision.
Cantarovici and her team remained steadfast and have worked extensively with the community to ensure their mission is well understood, even when obstacles like COVID and lack of access to capital stood in their way. In short, Cantarovici’s drive and persistence are nothing short of admirable — especially with her team of devoted artisans by her side.
According to Food Network and popular food enthusiast Guy Fieri, Cantarovici is “the empress of empanadas” and pumps out thousands of empanadas a day that are “light …simple; [the way an] empanada’s supposed to be.”
Cantarovici and her team are excited to offer Boulder students and customers an authentic yet unique nosh spot with an intimate dine-in area where they can enjoy a full espresso coffee bar, Argentinian wines and beer, and the city’s only mimosas and sangria made with one-hundred-percent fresh-squeezed orange juice, alongside their famous hand-made artisan empanadas.
The restaurant is named in honor of Lorena’s mother.