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.