Arts & CultureNeighborhood News

Cafe Astoria owners to open modern Filipino restaurant

By Casey Ek
Leah Raymundo and John Occhiato, the proprietors of Cafe Astoria, are spreading their wings and are set to open Kalsada at 1668 Selby Ave. 
Kalsada, which means street in Filipino, will inhabit the former home of Augustine’s and will boast a modern Filipino menu. 
The pair is eyeing a mid-April opening with reservations potentially opening as soon as April 1. 
The menu is not yet locked, but the pair, with the help of Executive Chef Joe Harter, hopes to present traditional dishes like lumbiang shanghai (eggrolls) in ways that St. Paul audiences might by more accustomed to. 
Raymundo, who hails from Bulakan, about an hour north of Manila, Philippines, said that while she enjoys traditional Filipino food, modernizing the dishes will bring a new level of fulfilment to her. 
“It’s more exciting for us to do that. It’s more creative,” Raymundo said, adding that the dishes the restaurant cooks up will stay true to their roots. 
The pair expanded Cafe Astoria, which opened in 2017, last June with the addition of health-inspired Mediterranean dishes and their bakery Stella Belle. The expansion came after over four years of inadequate storage. Occhiato recalls having to pick up milk every Saturday because most companies don’t delivery on Sundays, and the cafe didn’t have space to store extra products. Now, they aim to bring the gains made at Cafe Astoria to Kalsada.
The latter establishment will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, during which time guests can expect Cafe Astoria’s coffee, dishes and service. Students would be free to work on laptops during this time, Occhiato said. 
The restaurant will then close for an hour and reopen at 4 p.m. when it will switch to dinner and full bar service. Kalsada will close at 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday. 
Occhiato noted that despite Filipinos having representation in terms of numbers in the United States, their food is often hard to find.  
“We’re doing this because we want to bring Filipino food to the people, and we like serving people,” Occhiato said. 
When asked about the timing of opening a restaurant in uncertain COVID-marked times, the pair felt confident the community they’ve built at Cafe Astoria would help carry Kalsada. The pair is typically working by 5 a.m. to prep and bake at the cafe, so they’ll rely heavily on the staff they hire and the relationships they have built with customers to put Kalsada on the map. 
“If you have a very good community, you have nothing to be scared of,” Raymundo said.
Raymundo and Occhiato plan to add a fair bit of color to the building that will house Kalsada and will incorporate at least one mural into their design.

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