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Husband and Wife Team Bring Home Cooked Latin-Asian Eats to Astoria

 Mariantonia and Guillermo Hung opened Pao & Cha Cha, serving empanadas, dumplings and other food to go.
Pao & Cha Cha Opens in Astoria
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ASTORIA — A new take-out eatery on Astoria Boulevard is looking to bring a fusion of Latin and Asian cuisine to the neighborhood.

Husband and wife Guillermo and Mariantonia Hung opened Pao & Cha Cha two weeks ago, a tiny cafe at 23-03 Astoria Blvd. where they serve specialty coffee drinks and to-go dishes inspired by their roots.

Both grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, where Guillermo learned Chinese cooking in his family's restaurants. Their menu reflects both cultures, and includes dishes like cachitos — traditional Venezuelan bread rolls filled with ham — and dumplings stuffed with pork and Chinese vegetables.

"People need more home-food," said Mariantonia Hung, 46, who said they strive to use quality ingredients and take a homemade approach to all their dishes.

Other menu offerings include tostones, homemade plantain chips, four flavors of empanadas plus entrees like chicken teriyaki and pork chops adobo, as well as fresh fish ceviche that will be offered every Friday.

"It's really home-cooked. We do it all, we do everything — the filling for the empanadas, the dough for the cachitos we bake," she said. "It’s a lot of work, but we think it’s worth it."

The couple moved to Astoria last year from Greenpoint, where they used to operate a supper club and cater parties and dinners. Before they entered the food world, Mariantonia worked for years as a party planner and Guillermo, 43, was a musician.

Pao & Cha Cha has just two seats and one small table, with an open kitchen that takes up most of the space inside the storefront, where passersby can see the food as it's being prepared. The eatery is focused on providing food to go and catering, the Hungs said, and they also plan to start hosting events soon.

The restaurant plans to run a monthly "chef's table" dinner for about six guests at a time, where they'll cook the meal based on a featured food or ingredient — whatever is the freshest or best item they find.

They will also host cooking lessons for small groups, teaching them how to make some of the restaurant's signature dishes, Mariantonia Hung said.

"We're going to have cooking classes here at night, just $25 a head, so it's affordable to everyone," she said.

Pao & Cha Cha is located at 23-03 Astoria Blvd. Its current hours of operation are Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.