Pallantia owner brings recipes, ingredients from Spain to Hempfield
Gonzalo Cembrero was an exchange student from Spain in 1994 when he attended Greensburg Catholic High School and “fell in love” with the United States.
After returning to Spain and completing his education, he spent his young adult years in business management and government, returning here several times to visit the Kelley family, his American hosts.
“I've always wanted to return here,” Cembrero says, his fluent English tinged with only a slight Spanish accent. His excellent English comes courtesy of his year here and private English lessons his mother, Maria Angeles Cembrero, insisted he and his brother take. Cembrero is trilingual. After a year studying in Paris, he also speaks French.
All along, Cembrero wanted to be an entrepreneur and bring the taste of Spain to the area. And so he has. Cembrero returned to Westmoreland County two years ago and opened Pallantia Tapas y Paella from Spain restaurant in March 2012 in Hempfield. There, he prepares the traditional dishes of Spain using his grandmother's authentic recipes.
“Pallantia” is the Latin for Palencia, Cembrero's ancient hometown in northern Spain. Pallantia is also the name of his parents' business there, so Cembrero adopted Pallantia as the name of the restaurant.
The restaurant offers traditional Spanish tapas, small plates of various savory foods such as Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp sauteed with wine, for $9.50) and creamy Croquetas de Bacon (croquettes filled with bacon, for $6.50).
“To eat tapas-style is to eat by whim, free from rules and schedules,” the restaurant menu states. “It is meant for those who wish to enjoy life to the fullest and love to spend time with friends.”
Bar tables, stools and a long wall bar encourage tapas sampling and sharing, and imbibing homemade sangria and other beverages, including Spanish wines and beers.
Tapas date to the 13th century, when Spanish King Alfonso X el Sabio (The Wise) found eating small portions of food during the day was easier on his stomach.
Pallantia also offers a variety of traditional entrees from Spain, including a different paella each day, from Paella de Pollo (chicken breast and vegetables) for $13 to Paella Marinera (seafood paella) for $18.
Cembrero grew up helping his grandmother cook paella. He uses imported rice from Valencia, Spain, in his grandmother's recipes. Paella originated in the Valencia region of Spain and uses either bomba or calasparra rice, saffron and olive oil.
Desserts all run $5, including traditional flan and torrijas, a Spanish bread pudding.
Doing some of the renovation work himself with the help of friends, Cembrero, 36, of Greensburg, wanted to create the illusion of an outdoor Spanish bistro. He chose arches, rough plaster, wrought iron chandeliers from California and ornate lampposts to add to the Old World ambiance.
About 50 diners can enjoy viewing large photos of castles in Spain, including in Cembrero's home county of Castile and Leon. Another large photo features the annual running of the bulls at the festival of San Fermin in Pamplona.
A poster in the bar features a performance of renowned bullfighters Julian “El Juli” Lopez and Jose Tomas. Inserted in the poster is the name of his American host “father,” Dave Kelley of Irwin. Cembrero had given the poster to Kelley, who later suggested Cembrero display it in the restaurant. Cembrero also displays a statue of Spain's premier literary hero, Don Quixote, and a small reproduction of a well-known Christ figure in Northern Spain.
“People who come here say, ‘This reminds me of Spain,'” Cembrero says. “And, if you haven't been to Spain, come here — after eating here, you will have been to Spain.”
Sandra Fischione Donovan is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.
Paella Marinera (Seafood Paella)
Native of Spain Gonzalo Cembrero grew up helping his grandmother, Irene Marcet, make traditional paella, which he considers “the most important gastronomic ambassador of Spanish cuisine.” He uses Spanish saffron and bomba rice imported from Valencia, Spain, which makes for a creamy, satisfying dish. The restaurant's Paella Marinera, or seafood paella, is a tasty meal to make any time and is especially appropriate for Fridays in Lent.
One of Cembrero's secrets: Don't stir the paella after adding the large shrimp.
3 ounces olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 ounces dry white wine
1 fresh tomato, grated
3 full calamari with tentacles, white hood sliced
1 dozen littleneck clams, shells closed
1 dozen mussels, shells closed
2 dozen small shrimp
1 2⁄3 cups bomba rice imported from Spain
3 1⁄3 cups water
Salt to taste
1 dozen large shrimp
Pinch of saffron from Spain
Heat the olive oil in a paella pan over medium heat. Place the garlic in the oil and saute briefly, then add the white wine. To this, add the fresh tomato and stir briefly, then add the calamari (see photo 1), clams and mussels (photos 2 and 3). Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat until the mussels and clams open. Add the small shrimp and combine. Then add the rice (photo 4) and mix with the water; salt to taste. Stir until evenly distributed, then do not touch the mixture. Add the large shrimp and a pinch of saffron.
Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for about 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed (photo 5).
Makes 2-3 servings.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers know fast start could be key to upcoming season
- Steelers receiver Heyward-Bey looks to make most of chance
- Scientists dismiss dire outlook for Western Pennsylvania winter weather
- Rossi: Cole perfect pitcher to start pivotal series for Pirates
- Steelers formalize practice squad
- Pirates notebook: Bucs unlikely to make trade before deadline
- Former Clairton, Pitt cornerback Coles enrolls at Duquesne
- On the border of Westmoreland, Fayette, Jacobs Creek section is sacred spot
- Pitt notebook: Panthers defense responds to questions with shutout
- Western Pennsylvania workers’ names echo different career paths
- New Ohiopyle park manager ready for big challenge that comes with job