For 6.5 years, customers were greeted with the smell of roasted coffee coming from the purple house outside downtown Waukesha, but soon the smell of Latin American cuisine will fill the air instead.

Arepanitas, a new Latin American eatery, is moving into the former Cafe De Arts location at 136 E. St. Paul Ave.

Arepanitas owner Francisco Mohamed plans to open his restaurant, which will include takeout, in March.

Mohamed had intended to open his restaurant just a block north of its new site. However, Mohamed said that location, which is connected to the Fox River Sports & Spas shop, posed too many problems.

"I would have had to invest too much money for things like plumbing and electricity," Mohamed said.

Mohamed said when those issues arose, he turned his attention away from that site and to a nearby location.

With Cafe De Arts announcing in the fall that it was moving to a building previously occupied by St. Paul Pub at 830 W. St. Paul Ave., Mohamed said Community Development Specialist Jeff Fortin informed Mohamed about the soon-to-be vacancy there. Cafe De Arts moved on Dec. 28.

"The opportunity presented itself at the old Cafe De Arts," Mohamed said.

Arepanitas will present a variety of Latin American cuisine. Menu items will include:

· Arepas, a flatbread made of ground maize dough or cooked flour prominent in the cuisine of Colombia and Venezuela, which can be filled with ham, cheese, avocado, shredded chicken, tuna, beans, meatloaf, baked ham or scrambled eggs.

· Cachapas, a traditional Venezuelan and Colombian dish made from corn. It can be made like pancakes.

· Pabellon criollo, a traditional Venezuelan dish found throughout the Caribbean. It is a plate of rice and shredded beef in stew and stewed black beans.

· Cuban sandwich, made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and sometimes salami on Cuban bread.

While the type of food will obviously be different from what Cafe De Arts offered, Mohamed said he'll keep one aspect of the building the same: the color of the house, whose purple exterior was its signature mark.

Mohamed said he recently signed a five-year lease for the building. He said he intended to take his plans to the city's community development department this week.

"We're fortunate to be here," said Mohamed, who is originally from Venezuela. "In restaurants, there are always ups and downs, and right now we're heading in the right direction.

"We believe in Waukesha and are confident we'll be successful here. It's something new to the area as it will be home-cooked Latin American-style food."

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