Parva Colombian Cafe dreams big, a little at a time

“Everything happened a little at once,” Karla Cantoral tells me. And he tells me more than once.

In fact, slow and steady has been a theme for Parva Colombian Cafe & Bakery, where even lechón asado takes a good seven hours to reach maximum tenderness. Cantoral and her husband, Fabian Diaz, have been running the place since 2018, when Diaz came in at 4 in the morning to bake, then occupied the counter and the kitchen until Cantoral, who stayed at home with the her little son, three months old at the time, showed up. until 10

It was just the two of them then. It was hard work, but that was something they had long since become accustomed to.

Cantoral and Diaz met years earlier while working at a Mexican restaurant on East Colonial Drive, the now-closed Maria Bonita. Ella, from Guatemala City. He, from Los Llanos, Colombia.

“It’s almost like Texas,” she says of her husband’s home region, full of tropical grasslands and cattle ranches. “It’s green, but they’re like cowboys. The culture is very different from other parts of Colombia.”


The food also has its own style. But Diaz, who moved to the United States with his parents in his mid-teens, didn’t initially have his sights set on the restaurant business. Years after his restaurant gigs, however, Cantoral eventually moved to Don Julio and to a front management position, and Díaz began helping his father, who had opened and still runs the La Casa del Pandebono bakery in Chickasaw Trail.

“He learned the business at the same time,” Sandoval says. “It’s the best kind of school, learning from someone with experience. His father had been cooking for 35 years and has a lot of knowledge.”

Lots to grab and go at the bakery counter, including cheese bread (with logo!) and loads of empanadas.  The corn patties seen here are filled with chicken, guava flour and cheese.

Diaz, he says, fell in love with the craft and began expanding his skills slowly, cooking until he cooked. Cantoral’s predilections were driven by service.

“I like people,” he says. “I continued to work as a server and manager and we loved the whole environment: the food, the service, the atmosphere that we can offer to customers. And we started writing things to plan them, to create our own business.”

The couple worked hard and saved money for the better part of four years.

“We never went to a bank,” he says. “It’s not easy. You’ve got nothing. You’re nobody. How are you going to do it?”

Parva's delicious scratch-made bread pudding doesn't have to be trendy, but plans for the new DeLand outpost include a decadent version with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

I don’t know if it would have worked, but I think a slab of Diaz’s Bread Milk Caramel Sauce ($3.50), hot out of the oven, might have opened the bank vaults.

Or maybe, over the years, as they saved, recipes like this were perfected.

The best thing is that you don’t have to wait. You can go to Parva right now. Sanford’s humble restaurant started out smaller, but since opening in 2018, they’ve expanded into the space next door and added tables to a counter-service setup. Now, some people go out for fresh pandebono and empanadas, both sweet and savory, while others camp out for the massive breakfast of calentado paisa ($17.95).

You’ll wish they had hammocks so you could sleep in them.

Sancocho is a weekend-only thing in Parva: chicken on Saturday, beef on Sunday.

“These dishes are 100 percent Colombian, exactly as you would get them,” he tells me of this dish, where eggs scrambled with tomato and onion are joined by rice and beans and a small corn cake and served with chorizo ​​and a walkable slab of pork belly.

Specials like Saturday chicken sancocho, chicken offering a more pronounced flavor than chicken, are popular on weekends. And equally massive. The dish – common in Latin America – has distinctions depending on the country. The warm, soup-like version of Parva is a hybrid that leans South American.

“In Guatemala, it’s more like water. In Colombia, it is in the middle. And in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, it’s heavier. More like a stew.”

This one, tasty with all its goodies: potato, yucca, banana, corn on the cob, tomatoes, meat, placed on the side in big chunks, may make you wish for another cold one. Fresh cilantro is brewing against all that humility. Like most dishes here, a slice of fresh avocado goes with the mix.

“We love to eat avocado above all else!” she says.

Paisa Platter: Steak, white rice, red beans, pork belly, Colombian sausage, fried sweet plantains, avocado, fried egg and a corn cake.

A dinner visit included bandeja paisa ($21.98), a similar dish: a thin filet replaces the scrambled eggs, though it comes with a stir-fry on the side, and a plate of that ridiculously tender lechon ($15.85 ).

“We started making a lechón,” Cantoral tells me of the pork that Diaz, using a marinade that took time to perfect, slow-cooks for hours. “Now we do about eight a week. It’s the same pork we use in the Cuban sandwich. Try it. It’s fantastic.”

Parva’s food, while Colombian at its core, is a mix of Latin styles, Cantoral says. Just like your customers. “I would say that 40 percent are Colombian, another 20-30 a mixture of Latinos and the rest are Americans. It’s also nice to have diversity in the kitchen. “

Looking for a dish for dinner?  Parva comes with a protein and three sides.  I would definitely support the lechon asado, which enjoys 6-7 hours in the oven before it arrives on your plate.  (Also goes on the Cuban sandwich.)

Now they have staff too. Something that happened not long after the couple started. And they are about to expand. Colombian bakery/restaurant/cafe Parva is opening soon in DeLand, with plans for a full-service restaurant with a bar, an express counter for customers who want to take their coffee and imported Colombian pandebono, and a larger bakery serving the Sanford restaurant, and maybe even more express counters, he muses.

“God was working for us,” she says, tears welling up as she describes the struggle: saving money, long hours, surviving COVID, the rising cost of everything from flour to meat and wood to in the construction “I felt his presence. We tried to work hard. It hasn’t been easy”.

It came a little at a time, but it makes sense. His dreams are big.

Parva Colombian cafe and bakery: 220 W Lake Mary Blvd. in Sanford; 407-688-3702;

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