We had the good fortune of connecting with Ria Dolly Barbosa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ria Dolly, how do you think about risk?
When I was in my late teens and just starting my career, someone asked me what I was afraid of the most and I responded by saying I was afraid of taking risks because I was afraid of failing. Just shy of two decades into my career, what scares me the most now is NOT taking the risk and missing out on what could be. It’s safe to say that where I currently am in my personal and professional life is the result of more than a few calculated risks. I think the reason why I was afraid to fail was because I didn’t yet understand that when you do, you are presented with very important lessons I guarantee are necessary to help guide you further down your path. Having been raised in French brigade kitchens, it was a risk to step away from preparing cuisine that a majority of the dining public felt comfortable eating. It was a risk to start cooking my family’s food in L.A. during a time when there weren’t Filipino restaurants in the mainstream dining scene. And now in the time of Covid, it is a risk to reopen our restaurant to the public after a nearly three month hiatus but it’s a risk we are willing to, and feel good about taking because a life without risk is a life without growth.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
We are Petite Peso and we serve Filipino food with thoughtful ingredients! We opened right at the start of the pandemic so it has been a very interesting and challenging ride so far and one we’ve been taking day by day. (We are very excited as we reopened Petite Peso March 3rd and have enjoyed seeing our regular customers once more.) What sets us apart is our take on the food we grew up eating. Having had experience working in restaurants with cuisines other than our own, we’ve taken that experience and technique and experimented on our recipes to hopefully push the potential of each dish so that our guests walk away with a memorable experience while still anchored to the taste of home.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My friends and I usually create food tour itineraries when they visit so this is really easy for me! Being in the restaurant industry, our days off are usually while everyone else is at work and/or school so Mondays are the best days to relax. What better way to start off a weeklong L.A. tour than by a full day at the beach? First stop would ideally be at The Getty Villa followed by lunch at Broad Street Oyster Company in Malibu for those luxurious lobster rolls with uni and caviar and of course a bottle of wine. Once full, we’d make our way to El Matador Beach and waste the day away inspecting tide pools, sunning and napping. Once the sun sets though, all that sun exposure usually makes me very hungry so we’d then head down to Birdie G’s in Santa Monica before calling it a night. L.A.’s Chinatown and Little Tokyo are so close to each other (and thank goodness for that) because that means we can hit two places in one day! We’d ideally start the day at Far East Plaza with coffee from Endorffeine. Jack might be the biggest coffee purist I know and one sip is all it takes for you to realize why his little spot at Far East is a gem. Right next door is my one of my favorite spots in all of L.A. and that’s Now Serving. A bookstore dedicated to all things food, owners and friends Michelle Mungcal and Ken Conception have curated an exciting and extensive array of cookbooks, magazines, equipment and my favorite — that silver spoon basket. The newly branded Lasita and Amboy across the way are ideal for lunch — Filipino roasted chicken, lechon with a side of Amboy burgers? Done deal. Off to Little Tokyo to explore Marukai and Nijiya markets. I also really love Anzen Hardware and Fugetsu-do Bakery next door and Wolf and Crane has an amazing array of Japanese whiskys. On Wednesday we’d get up early, grab a coffee and head to the Santa Monica Farmers Market for amazing produce from favorites like Her Farm, Peter Schaner, Coleman Farm and definitely swing by Peads & Barnett for the best pork and the most unique flowers in town. Maybe store all of the farmers goodies in a cooler and hang out at the beach for some sun and salt before heading home and day drinking while figuring out what we’d cook with the farmers market treasures we just picked up. We’d start one morning strolling leisurely through the Huntington Library and Gardens. We’re gonna need to work up an appetite before we head down to the San Gabriel Valley and indulge on mouth tingling dishes at Chengdu Taste, dumplings at Hui Tou Xiang, dimsum at Elite, tender chicken at Tokyo Fried Chicken and bang-bang dessert first at Big Softee followed by boba at Half & Half Tea House! Weekends are usually when you’d most likely see taco trucks out and about so I’d try to hit all my favorites throughout the day like Tire Shop Tacos, Tacos Leo, Mariscos Jalisco, Teddy’s Red Tacos (that birria OMG), Ave 26 Tacos, and although they’re not a truck, Sonoratown is definitely up there on favorite taco spots, especially their Caramelo. Finding a great taco truck is like finding treasure. Sure most of these aren’t sit down spots but I like to think of it as a tasty adventure. There’s nothing quite like indulging in delicious tacos on the hood or trunk of your car.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d love to dedicate my shoutout to Chefs Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan. Their cookbook was the only Filipino cookbook in the International section of Barnes and Noble in Salt Lake City in 2007 and it made me simultaneously feel homesick and immense pride. To be completely honest, reading through the cookbook while still at Barnes and Noble caused me to ugly cry, I was so homesick. It was the farthest from home I had ever been and I hadn’t yet found the only Filipino market in town. I had always wondered about taking the techniques I’ve learned through the kitchens I’ve worked in and applying them to Filipino food. You could say Memories of Philippine Kitchens was the catalyst, the spark that brought me where I am today. I am profoundly thankful for having come across that book years ago.
Instagram: @riadollybarbosa @petitepeso @pesogoods
The photo of myself solo and with my partners Robert Villanueva and Tiffany Tanaka outside the Jewelry Building is from Ages Imagery. The other photos are mine.