Delicias del Sur soon to bring homemade South American, Cuban comfort food to downtown Lawrence

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If you only know a handful of Spanish words, here’s one you might want to add to your vocabulary: medialuna.

What’s a medialuna? It’s a flaky, crescent-shaped croissant/brioche hybrid, full of sweet dough and vanilla. And it’s a specialty of a Lawrence restaurant and bakery specializing in South American food, Delicias del Sur, set to open soon in the former RPG space at 724 Massachusetts St. 

To create the new restaurant, longtime Lawrence resident Romina Novick has pulled together a unique and personal group of South American and Cuban comfort food experts. She’s tapping her extended family of abuelas (grandmothers), tíos y tías (uncles and aunts), and hermanas (sisters), who long have gathered at holidays and other events to celebrate family and food. 

“No professional culinary background at all,” says Novick, who was born and raised in Uruguay. “Only the knowledge from seeing my mom cook, my grandmas and my sisters. Our culture cooks a lot of homemade food.”

We all may have to learn some Spanish to explore Delicias del Sur’s menu. Expect a wide array of Latin American treats when it opens in the coming weeks (keep an eye on its Facebook page at this link for opening plans). 

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Family and friends got to sample some items during an event on Saturday, March 9, 2024 at Delicias del Sur.

“We will have a variety of products,” Novick says. “Crepes for brunch and all day as well as Venezuelan arepas. Uruguayan and Argentinian empanadas, lots of pastry, sweets and cakes, and we are working very hard on the bakery area to bring Uruguayan-style bread and bizcochos. We are bringing a little bit from all of South America.”

Novick’s uncle Eldo and aunt Jo had a farm south of Ottawa that served as a jump from Latin America to the Midwest. 

“I grew up from birth to 5 in Montevideo, then we moved to El Pinar Canelones,” she says. “When I turned 12 we came to Lawrence and went back at 14 years of age. At 19 years old I came to Lawrence to stay.”

She had the idea for the restaurant not long after moving here, but it took time to make it happen. She missed food from Uruguay, “but as the dream was too big, I always had it as a wish. Later on I met my husband, Pedro, and we started to form our family.”

Pedro is Cuban, and he brought another family flavor to the restaurant dream. His sister contributed their Cuban influence to the menu, with recipes such as yucas al mojo, a famous Cuban root side dish enjoyed during holidays, and tostones rellenos, also known as stuffed plantain cups. 

It’s recipes like these that helped to kick Novick’s idea into reality: the ones that come from la familia.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Romina Novick (right) holds flowers given to her during an event for family and friends at Delicias del Sur.

“We had different business(es) and the moment arrived when digging a little on my family story,” she says. “My uncle from Ottawa shared the story that my grandma, Sofia Mazzetta, and my grandpa, Atilio Mazzetta, had a small tea house in Uruguay called Te Til (useful to you). My uncle had all the recipes that my grandma had been saving for many years, along with those my mom sent me (and) some of the ones she had back in Uruguay as well. And that’s when the wish I had seemed like it needed to become real.”

As Novick and her family planned the restaurant, support for the venture spread. Friends and family expressed that they wanted the tastes and flavors they knew from home. So the menu will cross multiple South American borders.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Yerba mate from Brazil (left) and Argentina at Delicias del Sur

You’ll see some familiar spices and ingredients at Delicias del Sur, but they may be used in different ways. For instance, dulce de leche is a well-known decadent confection made with sweetened milk. But Novick anticipates that guests may be surprised by the texture. 

Novick hopes that Delicias del Sur will make South American food more familiar to Lawrence, creating a place “wherever home is a little closer.” 

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Delicias del Sur is set to open soon at 724 Massachusetts St.
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August Rudisell (he/him) has been a photographer and videographer for The Lawrence Times since March 2021. He is a former dispatcher, he avidly consumes and creates local news, and he would love to meet your dog when out and about at a community event.

See more of his work for the Times here. He can be reached at arudisell (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com.

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