In the heart of Spanish Harlem, known to locals as El Barrio, is the Puerto Rican tapas bar, La Fonda. “We put Puerto Rican food on the map, ” said James Gonzalez, who became a partner in 2017 after having spent “forever” as a loyal customer. “With my background, I should have been anything except for an entrepreneur, but here I am. ”Puerto Rican immigrant Jorge Ayala had spent decades living next door to George & Gina’s, a small eatery named after the husband and wife team that owned it. When the couple decided to sell, Jorge worked out a deal to take over the lease and create a “restaurant of the people” that celebrated the Latinx heritage that was so meaningful to him and other transplants in the neighborhood. Fittingly, La Fonda’s dishes are “Nuyorican fusion, ” melding elements from the Boricua, Spanish, African, and indigenous Taíno cultures. “Our food is all made the way a grandma would make it, but it’s not just the basic rice and beans that she would put on the table. ” Yes, La Fonda may make its sofrito fresh every day, and it is of course known for its chicharrón and slow-roasted pernil, but these hearty Latin staples take on an elegant new life under James and Jorge’s direction.
I have looked forward to encountering this location since my journey began more than five years ago. My husband and I have been affiliated with The New Jewish Home for twenty-five years, starting when my grandmother became a resident. Ten years later, she turned one hundred years old and my husband was honored to become a member of the board of this not-for-profit. The New Jewish Home has been around for nearly 170 years, providing a continuum of services for elders including home care, post-acute rehabilitation, long-term care, and senior living options. There are plans in place to move this Manhattan home to a side street a few blocks south. The new facility, to be known as the Living Center of Manhattan, will be the first to offer the Green House model in an urban setting.