Califonia Bountiful

Portuguese-Americans celebrate traditional foods

Azores Café is a restaurant where Portuguese food is the star attraction.

Portuguese immigrants began arriving in California in the mid-1800s, armed with determination that they would succeed in this new world. They succeeded in many areas, including a strong presence in farming. That tradition continues today, with people like Filomena Augusto, who runs a large dairy in Bakersfield.

Filomena had long dreamed of running a different business, and that dream was realized with the opening of the Azores Café, a restaurant where Portuguese food is the star attraction.

Portuguese food is hearty, family-style fare that features a little bit of everything with abundant taste and personality. You'll find similarities to Spanish, French and Italian cuisine, but with a unique twist. Dishes served at the café include bacalhau, salted codfish imported from Portugal, tossed with potatoes, onions, garlic, olives and hardboiled eggs. They also make a hearty kale soup from scratch.

"I want them to experience our food because some of them have a memory of what it is," Filomena said. "We're fun. If you don't like the food, don't worry about it, you don't have to pay!"

Another way to savor the best of this cuisine is visiting and sampling the delectable offerings at a Portuguese bakery.

Turlock Portuguese Bakery is new on the scene, but touches of the old world are easy to see. Gilberto Corvelo spends much of his day shaping and baking a lot of delicacies, including Portuguese dinner rolls and traditional sweet bread, which is light and delicate and features just the right amount of butter, flour and eggs.

Portuguese-Americans also hold dozens of festas throughout the state each spring and summer, cultural events that attract thousands of people.

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