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Cuban and Middle Eastern options in Arabi

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  Mita's Cafe Cubano (7007 St. Claude Ave., Arabi, 504-279-5115), a Cuban cafe, is now open in Arabi. Owner Raul Ramos originally opened Mita's, named after his daughter, as a Cuban coffee shop specializing in Cuban sandwiches. "I didn't know so many people knew about Cuban food," Ramos says. "So now I just cook what Cubans eat, what I eat: arroz con pollo, ropa vieja, picadillo..."

Ramos says most Cuban dishes are sofrito-based, the same way most New Orleans dishes are "trinity"-based. Cuban-style sofrito starts with onions, garlic and bell peppers. Other sofrito ingredients such as cilantro and cumin also are added. "Soy Cubano. My parents are Cubano, my grandparents are Cubano," Ramos says. "It's the only way I know how to eat."

Mita's Cafe Cubano is open 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 6 a.m.-2p.m. Thursday, and 6 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday.

  Another recent Arabi opening is Stella Maris Cafe & Grocery (7555 W. Judge Perez Drive, Arabi, 504-267-7137), offering Middle Eastern cuisine and groceries. One half of the building is the cafe, serving several traditional Middle Eastern appetizers, entrees, sandwiches, desserts and beverages. The other half is the grocery, providing items like hookah supplies, Laziza and Bavaria non-alcoholic malt beverages, Ziyad brand products and fancy candies.

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