The journey contines for Peruvian couple
New London — After being closed for renovations since early August, the Peruvian restaurant Pollos a la Brasa reopened this past week, now roughly four times the size and with a bar.
Owners Bladimir and Rosaura Pedroza have also renamed the restaurant, which means rotisserie chicken, as CJ Peruvian Bar & Restaurant. The name is in honor of their adult children Christopher and Jessica, who both work there.
Jessica said the restaurant’s aim is all about maintaining the authenticity of the food.
“We have a lot of people here from Peru, from other cultures, that kind of miss that, miss home,” Jessica said. She added, “I’m all for keeping the mountain Peruvian roots. We literally have Machu Picchu on the wall.”
She gestured to a large print of the citadel, which hangs near the bar in the part of the restaurant that formerly was Whaling City Spirits.
The Pedrozas own the building at 255 Broad St., and when the package store was located there, they opted to make their restaurant a BYOB out of a desire not to compete with Whaling City Spirits.
But then the package store changed hands and moved to a new location, Rosaura said. Pollos a la Brasa had grown a lot since opening July 5, 2008, and so the Pedrozas saw an opportunity.
For now, the new bar serves only wine and beer, but the owners are working on getting a full liquor license. They will then serve Peruvian beverages like the pisco sour, a cocktail made with Peruvian brandy and topped with egg whites, and the Machu Picchu, which beautifully fades from red to yellow to green.
Further in the future, they hope to start holding dance parties.
The menu has remained the same, with options like ceviche, yucca, plantains, Peruvian-style Chinese fried rice, paella, steak, fried fish and, of course, plenty of chicken.
Bladimir credits former state Rep. Chris Soto, a friend, with helping him and his wife through the process of getting a small business loan and grant from the state for their renovation.
From Peru to Connecticut, decades of hard work
It was a long journey for Bladimir and Rosaura Pedroza to get to this point, they said in a conversation in late September in their Waterford home.
She came from Peru to the United States in 1981, and he in 1985. After meeting at a party in New York in 1986, they would go to a coffee shop on Liberty Avenue in Queens and talk for hours. Three months after meeting, they were married.
“Everybody thought we were crazy,” Bladimir said. There were “a lot of bets” on how long they would last.
“Life wasn’t easy for a couple that weren’t professionals,” Rosaura said. “We had to start from the bottom.”
She was working as a seamstress, and he at a pocketbook manufacturer and then as a cab driver. Bladimir said that “crime was awful at that time” in Queens, and he had friends from Peru living in Connecticut, so the couple moved to New London in 1990.
Bladimir has spent more than 27 years working at Benchmark Belt Company in Madison, always holding down at least a second job: first at the casinos, then as a landlord, and finally at the restaurant.
The Pedrozas used to own 23 apartments around New London that they rented out, but Bladimir said he was stressed because it was a lot of work, so he decided to sell the property. The timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous: He sold the property about six months before the Great Recession hit.
When Bladimir brought up the idea of having a restaurant, Rosaura was hesitant. She knew how hard the industry is, and she had no idea how to run a restaurant. But she agreed.
“Everything was like a challenge for me, and I was crying the first two weeks,” she said.
For the first few years of the restaurant, Bladimir would wake up at 4:30 a.m. to go to the belt company and then be at the restraurant until 10 or 10:30 p.m. He took a step back from the restaurant for a while and would go home after working at the factory, but he has since returned to the long hours.