CHATTING FABULOUSLY WITH YVETTE LEEPER-BUENO
If you have never heard me talk about Vinateria before, you have been living under a rock.
Vinateria is a small, vibrant restaurant that sits on the corner of 119th and Frederick Douglas Blvd in Harlem. Vinateria also just so happens to be one of my absolute favorite restaurants as well. I dined at Vinateria almost 4 years ago, and till this day I am always amazed at how this restaurant continues to provide amazing food and also an amazing dining experience. That simple statement is a hard one to deliver as new restaurants open every single day here in NYC. I have gone for dinner, I have dined at brunch, and I have sat inside and outside. I've even dined at the bar. No matter where I sit, or who I am with, or what I choose to order, Yvette Leeper-Bueno and her team gets its right.
I totally adore Yvette as well so it was a no brainer to chat fabulously with her about her background, the concept of Vinateria and what restaurants she likes to dine at outside of her own. You will probably run into me at Vinateria soon but if not, be sure to order some of my favorite dishes including the black spaghetti, the grilled octopus and the creme brulee.
Eating Fabulously - Where Did You Get Your Education?
Yvette Leeper-Bueno - I’m a New York girl through and through, my parents met in Harlem, I was raised on the Upper West Side and so I attended Barnard College. I also recently completed a business diploma at Columbia.
What is Your Current Position?
YLB - I am the owner/proprietor of Vinateria—it’s sometimes hard to believe that we’ve now been open for 4 years!
Explain the Idea and Concept behind Vinateria?
YLB- Vinateria is a beloved Harlem restaurant focused on market-driven cuisine with vibrant, yet comforting dishes celebrating the rich culinary traditions of Italy and Spain. The acclaimed wine list is chosen from small producers, and is full of surprising yet accessible finds, while the artisan cocktail program uses house-made tinctures, seasonal produce, and fresh-grown herbs from the restaurant’s own garden. We always wanted Vinateria to make everyone in the neighborhood feel comfortable, whether it is for a casual glass of wine on the patio, or for a special celebration.
What about Harlem Made it the Perfect Place for Your Business?
YLB - I’ve always had a strong connection to Harlem, it just has the most electric energy. I wanted to take foods that I loved and wine that I was excited about and share it with this neighborhood. Plus, I live in the area, so it all really made sense.
As a African American Restauranteur What Hardships (if any) Did You Face In The Beginning of Your Restaurant Career?
YLB - You know, opening a restaurant is always a challenge! I think that getting people to take you seriously, as a women and as a first time restaurant owner is tough, but you need to assert yourself but also build a strong team that can help support you. It was so helpful to have the support of my neighborhood and my family as I opened Vinateria.
What Are Some Essential Kitchen Items That You Feel Every Person Needs to Have in Their Kitchen?
YLB - At Vinateria, we have a great focus on making fresh pasta and though it can be tricky to perfect, it’s not hard to get started making it! I would definitely suggest everyone have some basic pasta tools such as ravioli stamps and a pasta roller—they are simple tools that will drastically change a home cook’s abilities!
What is Your Food Philosophy?
YLB - My food philosophy is to eat simply and deliciously! Stick with produce that is in season and use the best possible seasonings with—good olive oil, good salt—and it will ALWAYS taste wonderful!
What is Your Food Guilty Pleasure?
YLB - Vinateria's olive oil cake has quickly become a serious guilty pleasure, it is so difficult for me to leave at the end of the night without sneaking a slice. Served with fresh whipped cream and some fresh berries, it is simple and really hits the spot!
Where Do You Go for A No Fail Meal?
YLB - My no fail meal can always be found at Barbutto in the Village. I have an affinity for cozy, casual neighborhood spots. The pollo al forno chicken situation at Barbuto is incredible. I love Barbuto because it is a place that you can come with 6 of your friends, everyone can order something different and everyone is sure to LOVE what they got.
Finish this sentence....." I Will Never Eat"
YLB - Tongue. My husband grew up eating some sort of beef tongue dish, which was also strangely served cold. I just can't do it, sorry.