My name is Gladys Benitez. My mom (Elena Sanguinetti) and I opened this cafe together mid February 2017. When I was finishing my last semester at UT, my mom shared her dream with me. She said it would be nice to open a cafe where she can share her delicious food with people. I spent my last semester learning about the restaurant industry and created a plan. We are the only owners, and we help each other out wherever we can. I am in charge of building the brand and awareness as while my mom is the mastermind behind the flavors. She makes everything fresh daily and brings it in for the morning. It tastes sooo good!
My mom is from Paraguay. Its a little landlocked country next to Argentina and Brazil. I grew up in Miami, a South American melting pot. I was born and raised in a culture where my daily ritual involved dancing salsa, merengue, and eating tons of alfajores and empanadas. I love the my Latin American culture. Coming to Texas when I was 13, I went to a school in fort worth where I experienced my first culture shock. I learned quick that the South American culture I left in Miami was no longer prevalent in Texas. A predominantly Mexican representation of latinos was what I found in Texas. I missed eating Venezulean Arepas and going to the cafes in Miami where the cuban lady would call me mama and immediately speak to me in Spanish. I moved to Austin for my formal education and convinced my mom that Fort Worth was too uptight for us and that we would grow better in Austin. I love Austin for many reasons. One, I love that we can be outdoors easily and enjoy nature and I love that more people from all over the world are moving here. Its becoming more of a melting pot and while some people don’t enjoy big cities, I believe they are the best way to learn about other people and their culture which is very exciting.
We had a soft open and prefer to continue to grow by word of mouth. We were perfecting our hours, and to be honest we are still pretty relaxed in our hours. We generally open 7am to 6pm Tuesday-Friday, 8am to 6pm Saturday, 8am to about 4 pm on Sunday and we close on Mondays. If you come right at 7 you might see us with tons of boxes and bags and my eyes may still be shut so BEWARE of my sleep walking. That is all up until I have my first cortadito of course, which is my favorite specialty cuban espresso drink.
When looking for the right place to start our business, we decided to look for a small space where we could grow alongside with the area. East Riverside was a bit of an untouched location and we found this cute spot with an amazing window that let in lots of good light in. We wanted to make it our little project and fill it with tons of love representing the love we have for each other. My mom and I are a team and we hope to express that in all our efforts to making this cafe a success. We hand painted everything. we even got involved in some the construction.
Our Menu is designed to allow people to come in and taste a bit of South America. We have empandas, alfajores, pastafrola, medialuna, bollos or bola de fraile, torta de miel negra, chipa, arroz con leche, sandwich de milanesa, mixto, and other surprise items.
we also serve specialty cuban espresso drinks. We have fresh juices and we like to test out new flavors once in a while.
The name of our cafe has a lot of meaning to it as well. Cafe Nena’i pronounced Neh-Nah-ee means little girl in the Indigenous language from Paraguay (Guaraní). Nena’i was my mothers nickname when growing up in Paraguay. She was this cute little blonde girl with green eyes and everyone on the farm she lived on called her Nena’i. My mom tells me stories of her childhood running around freely through the land and swimming in the rivers. She was definitely a free spirit. I grew up feeling free myself and we we were always dreamers. This little coffee shop on the east side of Austin is our dream come true. Nena’i to us is the dream in every little girls heart and the vast possibilities of anyone from anywhere and from all walks of life.