Building on their heritage

Published 9:41 pm Tuesday, January 5, 2010

With red, blue and yellow walls to pay homage to the Philippine flag, Totoy’s Filipino Restaurant in North Suffolk is a family-run business true to its roots.

Totoy’s opened as the first and, to date, only Filipino restaurant in Suffolk in August. It is located in the Food Lion shopping center at the intersection of Town Point Road and College Road.

“Because the Filipino community is based in Norfolk and Portsmouth, when my family and I moved out here to Churchland, we had to drive all the way out there to get Filipino food,” said Lynn Carbonell, the restaurant’s owner.Carbonell is a second-generation Filipino, and her husband, Ronald Felipe, who owns and cooks for the restaurant, is from the Philippines.

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Together the couple has cooked up a tasty menu to please both Filipinos and Americans with a more traditional palette.

“We make both traditional Filipino food like pancit and lumpia and non-traditional foods that might appeal to someone who is a little hesitant to try new things,” Carbonell said. “And if someone comes in and doesn’t know what they want, I always give samples of anything in the steam table.”

There is a wide array of entrees on the steam table for customers to choose from and a menu of cooked-to-order items, as well.

“People worry that because pancit isn’t on the steam table, we don’t make it,” Carbonell said. “We make it fresh when you order it. It’s a rice noodle, and if it sits too long it’s not as good.”

While Filipino foods are Asian, they differ from what people may expect of Asian cuisine.

“Chinese sauces are usually thick and brown and either spicy or sweet, and Thai foods are typically very spicy,” Carbonell said. “Filipino foods differ from them, because each sauce has an individual taste.”

Many Filipino sauces are more like a marinade and served as a thin gravy, rather than a thick syrup.

Carbonell said some of her more popular dishes include the adobo pork in vinegar, soy sauce and bay leaves; beef steak and onions in soy sauce, lemons and pepper; and sinigang soup that is spiced with tamarind.

Felipe also cooks up a special sweet and spicy pork as a non-traditional Filipino entrée. Chicken wings, fried empanadas, chicken teriyaki and Filipino pulled pork sandwiches are also on the menu for those wanting to try the island’s foods.