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- Kare-kare, Filipino oxtail stew
Before he opened his restaurant, Pica-pica Filipino Cuisine in St. Johnsbury, George Sales was an independent consultant and project manager. Now Sales, who was born and raised in the Philippines, spends his time cooking stir-fries, crispy egg rolls known as lumpiang, and kare-kare, a stew with oxtail, eggplant and long beans. "I've always loved entertaining; I've always loved cooking," said Sales. "It's been a passion of mine to open a restaurant."
The 30-seat spot at 1214 Main Street opened softly the second week in September and will expand to its full hours and menu next week. So far, Sales noted, the reception has been "phenomenal ... The community is really supportive."
Location Details Pica-Pica Filipino Cuisine
It helps that Sales has designed the business to support that community. Several of his employees are current St. Johnsbury Academy students or recent graduates new to the job market. He's operating Pica-pica as a low-profit L3C — a step between a nonprofit and an LLC — with the aim, he said, of focusing more on engagement than on profits. "The goal is not to fill every seat," he said. "It's to create a really mind-blowing experience for everybody who walks in here."
Sales' best-selling dishes so far, he said, have been ones that are familiar to American palates, such as vinegar- and soy-marinated adobo chicken and a variety of noodle dishes. Over time, he hopes to educate people about his home country and the intricacies of its food. The Latin flavors of Filipino cuisine reflect its past status as a Spanish colony.
"[Pica-pica] is about Filipino culture, as well," Sales said. "Food is the summation of a country, of its people. You can tell a lot from it."