ROGERS PARK — A North Side husband and wife have combined their experience at two celebrated restaurants for a new eatery in Rogers Park.
Semilla’s Latin Kitchen & Wine Bar, 6764 N. Sheridan Road, comes from Jose Roque and Patricia Norabuena, who are using their experience in big-name kitchens to produce their takes on traditional family recipes.
Norabuena spent four years as a cook and sous chef at the Pump Room, the iconic Gold Coast restaurant that rebranded to Booth One in 2018. Roque, who owns a plumbing company, was a founder and investor in Wicker Park’s Amaru.
The North Side couple left those ventures and late last year were approached about opening in the space at Sheridan Road and Pratt Boulevard that formerly housed an Ethiopian coffee shop. They decided to create Semilla’s, seeking to start a family-run business of their own in a neighborhood setting.
“It just happened,” Roque said. “Knowing the area is so diverse, we thought it would be good to open a restaurant here that was different.”
Semilla’s specializes in upscale and creative takes on Peruvian and Mexican cuisine. Entrees include octopus marinated in Peruvian pepper sauce and bass served with Peruvian red onion and habanero salsa. Traditional Mexican dishes like quesadillas are prepared with items like truffle corn mushroom and pumpkin flour.
“It’s about remembering how my family made it back home,” said Norabuena, who is of Peruvian descent. “It’s about using similar ingredients and blending cultures.”
The husband-and-wife duo signed a lease for the Rogers Park storefront last year but saw their plans sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic. They worked hard to open in the fall, before a likely dip in business during the winter.
In preparation, Roque constructed walls and a roof for Semilla’s large outdoor patio, which helped sustain them through the winter. Originally, the restaurant opened for breakfast service, but it has since stopped that operation as it scaled down for the winter. With the return of patio season, the couple may soon re-launch a brunch service.
“We wanted to open to see how it was going to be before the winter,” Roque said. “I think there was very good acceptance from people.”
Semilla’s has developed a following among Loyola students who frequent happy hour, professors who visit their weekly live music and families that come out for Taco Tuesdays. With life slowly returning to normal, the business hopes to become a neighborhood favorite for years to come.
“It has been a challenge,” Norabuena said. “It helps having family next right to me. And having the neighbors. They have been our biggest supporters.”
Semilla’s Latin Kitchen & Wine Bar is open 4-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 4-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday. For more information on the business, click here.
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