Husband-and-wife chef team Alex Raij and Eder Montero have lived in the Amalgamated Dwellings on Grand Street since 2005. During that time, have steered three successful Spanish restaurants–two in Chelsea and one in Brooklyn. Now they are looking to launch a new venture a lot closer to home, at 357-359 Grand St., the former kosher pizzeria spot.
“We’ve been extremely lucky to work in amazing neighborhoods, and this one is extra-special,” Raij told The Lo-Down in an exclusive interview this morning. “It’s been a dream of ours for a long time and we’re excited to propose the possibility.”
The pair is scheduled to appear before Community Board 3’s liquor licensing subcommittee next Monday night to present their application for a permit to serve beer, wine and liquor. Raij noted that the proposal is very preliminary at this point; they have not yet signed a lease with Seward Park Co-op, the landlord of the double storefront, she said.
Raij, the daughter of Argentinian parents, and Montero, who is from Basque country in Spain, met at Montero’s first NYC restaurant. They own and run El Quinto Pino on West 24th Street, Txikito on Ninth Avenue and La Vara in Cobble Hill. It’s been a good year for them so far: The Times’ Pete Wells awarded El Quinto Pino two stars in May, the same month they inked a deal to publish a Basque cookbook.
“I feel like we’re at the top of our game,” Raij said.
Though she’s keeping mum on the menu for now, the Grand Street proposal would be some variation of Spanish cuisine, she said. Each of the couple’s other three restaurants have distinctly different personalities with roots in Spanish cooking, which Raij calls “very approachable.”
“There are a lot of stories to tell with Spanish food,” Raij said. “And we want to be the ones to tell them in our neighborhood.”
The application for the as-yet-unnamed restaurant (PDF) outlines a plan for about a dozen tables inside, with a total capacity of 74 patrons. Proposed hours are Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to midnight, Friday 8 a.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The paperwork also mentions the possibility of additional seating in an outdoor space to the rear, which is a tiny courtyard running behind the commercial strip, which backs up onto the Seward Park High School tennis courts. Raij said her first priority is securing a liquor license and planning the indoor space, but the couple is exploring the option to eventually expand to a handful of tables outside.