Brunch at Vinateria Restaurant in Harlem, NY.
New Yorkers are serious about their brunch. It’s our last love session with the weekend before heading back to work, our hoorah before the purge that is ‘Meatless Monday’ and the meal that combats the hangover from Saturday night’s endless amounts of tequila shots. And here in the ‘Dirty Apple’ with its mixture of culture, different world cuisines, interesting personalities and individual style, fashion is a big part of brunching in NYC too. It was only right for me to meet up with my friend Jami, plus-size blogger (and addict of all things nerdy) of ‘Style Over Size’ to enjoy brunch on a sunny spring day. There is nothing more we like to do than get dressed up in all our fashionable plus-sized, curvy glory to eat good food!
Team building is important to owner and restaurateur, Yvette Leeper-Bueno. This ‘bawse’ lady – a Harlem girl of Jamaican parentage stands tall and chicly dressed with her long dreads rolled in a tight bun almost gliding through the dining room and outside seating area welcoming and talking to diners. I’m greeted by friendly and professional staff as I sit at the bar awaiting Jami’s arrival and I already notice the talented team she’s built as they communicate with each other in the attempts to make the hectic brunch service go smooth. A full but not crowded dining room of enthusiastic brunch eaters enjoy casual and family friendly Spanish and Italian influenced menu items. Dark grey walls, large hanging mirrors, curvy fonts of daily food and cocktails hand written in chalk adorn the walls as I peep the décor. At the bar, against an artificially lit, white wall, carafes and decanters sit on shelves. They hold my attention for a minute or two before my eyes glance over more branded bottles of tequila I’ve ever seen and low standing wine chillers stocked with dark-colored bottles of wine.
Having just celebrated their 4 year anniversary on April 15th, locals no longer consider Vinateria the ‘new kid on the block’. And, as in any menu creation, challenges arose, but they were able to understand and cater to the taste and curiosities of the local diners. A relaxed and uncomplicated brunch menu that’s not ‘egg’ heavy and incorporates the ethnic Spanish and Italian origins with offerings of Crispy Calamari, Chivito and Polenta.
Harlemites and visitors from other boroughs show support and love the seasonal, tasty and well thought out food cooked using locally sourced ingredients and prepared all in-house by skillful hands. Like the Black Spaghetti (Spaghetti Nero), a staple dinner option now added to brunch after listening to the request of many diners. The freshness of the well-cooked squid ink pasta comes through eaten with thin slices of octopus and seasoned breadcrumbs.
Tom, the General Manager came to our table to say hi and after I ate this non-greasy and low salt dish with hints of lemon, we agreed that though not what you’d expect to be on a brunch menu, it does fit. The jam and granola are other brunch options made in house too.
As Jami and I devoured the daintily presented Bacalao Croquettes, dragging the crispy deep-fried balls all over the plate supping up the tangy aioli, we caught up on evolving plus size fashions and the ups and downs of being a blogger. She, sipping on a Mimosa, cutting through her medium-rare ordered grilled Steak with scrambled Eggs and between me gulping black coffee I mentioned how happy I am to now wear trendy, well made clothes without it always having a percentage of lycra in it – LoL She’s going to give the fabulous and fun scoop on what we wore to brunch from my favorite store Eloquii – stay tuned!!
Vinateria’s philosophy is to use locally sourced and seasonal ingredient when possible. They work close with local, national and some start-up companies that value and offer locally grown produce, sustainable caught fish that is not over farmed and meat purveyors that understand that needs of the restaurant. That fact and the short travel time it took both Jami and I to get here from the Bronx and Jersey respectfully are off the head two great reasons to return to Vinateria to enjoy its food and wine.
Thanks Tom, for sitting with me and speaking so highly of Vinateria, enjoy your softshell crabs and Jami, let’s do brunch again!