Chef Manuel Godino says it took him one year to get here — to find a location for his business, secure a loan and get ready to open Venga Empanadas on Friday, July 1. But really Godino has been working on his casa de empanadas for much longer than that.

The Spanish native fell in love with empanadas while living in Argentina. He thought it was the perfect snack. When he moved to San Francisco, he was surprised to find that they were hard to come by, so he rented a kitchen at Mission Creek Kitchen, inside the Stable Cafe, and started making empanadas to sell. We met him back in December of 2008, when he was just starting out, and he shared his recipe. Three years later, Venga empanadas are sold at supermarkets around the city, and as of Friday, you can grab a cup of coffee and a bite to eat at Godino’s restaurant at 443 Valencia Street.

On Friday, Godino told Mission Loc@l that he wasn’t nervous about the opening. “We are ready,” he said with a smile. But as he paced back and forth between the kitchen and the front of the store making sure that everything was ready in time — 1,000 empanadas to be made for Friday alone — he watched the clock and kept asking his cook what else needed to be done. It was clear he was a little nervous.

Shortly past 7:30 a.m., the first customer walked in and the pressure was off. Godino, warm and friendly as always, helped the woman pick out five empanadas to take to her co-workers working on construction nearby. He rang up her bill and said, “My wife told me to keep the first dollar from the first customer, so here, one dollar,” as he put the bill down on the counter to frame later.

Don’t miss the breakfast empanada, a mix of eggs and spinach, and the spicy beef version. At $3.50 each, you can grab a few to sample.

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Hélène Goupil is a former editor at Mission Local who now works independently as a videographer and editor. She's the co-author of "San Francisco: The Unknown City" (Arsenal Pulp Press).

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