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Central American cuisine comes to Manteca center
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Armando Cordoba knew that he needed to do something after retiring from AT&T three years ago.

While he had spent years in the workforce, the former San Francisco resident – who moved to Manteca two years ago – knew that he had to something to keep himself occupied and prevent the boredom that had begun to set in.

So he took his second shot at the restaurant business.

Cordoba is now spending his days Nana’s Pupuseria on W. Louise Avenue with his wife Margie – churning out traditional Central American dishes from Nicaragua and El Salvador to a growing number of customers that include both Central America natives and those looking to try something different.

“We kind of expected it to be slow the first few months as people started to learn about us, but business has been really good,” Margie Cordoba said. “There have been a couple of times that we’ve been completely overwhelmed and have run out of food. We didn’t expect that many people to start coming in.”

Years ago Cordoba owned a restaurant in the Excelsior district of San Francisco, and had to sell it because his expanding work hours didn’t leave enough time to take care of the business that had grown to become his passion – a decision that wasn’t easy for the Costa Rica native.

But now that he has his new endeavor up and running, Cordoba gets the chance to tackle something that had evaded him before while keeping occupied during his retirement years.

And it also provides a family outlet as well.

The couple had to deal with the horrific shooting of their son three years ago in San Jose when a gang-member wanting to know what he claimed at a party (mistaking his San Francisco Giants hat and jacket as a sign of gang affiliation) riddled his car with bullets and struck him in the head.

Now their son – who is permanently disabled – gets the chance to spend time at the restaurant with his parents and help him feel like he can contribute to his family as they embark on a new endeavor in a new community.

It’s the menu, however, that has helped the restaurant gain a steady following with a cross-section of the community.

From nacatamales – a much larger and more elaborate Nicaraguan form of their Mexican cousin – to the Papusas made in the traditional Salvadoran fashion, the lunch and dinner crowd have been known to flood the restaurant and at times overwhelm the small mom-and-pop establishment as they get used to the flow of their customers.

Seeing so many people happy after enjoying their food, Cordoba said, is what gets him up in the morning to go prepare for the day.

“It’s very rewarding to see people happy while eating in our restaurant,” he said. “It heals all of those cuts and those burns that you got while you were busy back on the grill making everything. It’s a sense of pride.”

Nana’s Pupuseria is located at 283 W. Louise Avenue in the Cardoza Center West plaza. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed Monday. For more information call 823-9157.