New York City get ready to eat, drink and dance the night away in perfect style. After being closed to revamp, La Nacional Restaurant will open on June 15th in honor of the 150-year anniversary of the Spanish Benevolent Society, one of the oldest cultural centers in New York City.
The landmark multi-functional brownstone is a part of the rich history of this great city. And, brought back to life is the pride in that with the reopening of the beloved restaurant.
The Benevolent Society has served as a beacon to the Spanish and Hispanic community since 1868. Jesus “Lolo” Manso, currently the owner of Socarrat Paella Bar, put La Nacional on the culinary map when he opened the original tapas bar under the brownstone 16 years ago.
Last week at a special opening ceremony guests were applauded the movement. At the grand celebration attendees and honored visitors enjoyed a beautiful presentation of food, dance, and drinks. Served delights included a divine Tuna Belly with Grilled Vegetables and Avocado, Lightly Fried Squid served on a unique squid ink bun, scrumptious Grilled Octopus with potato cream; and for dessert a sweet Flan with caramel ice cream.
It was truly a night to remember. This is not just any restaurant in the city, this is a passionate place structured out of love and passion. Now in its 150th year, the organization is relaunching the restaurant, this time operated by members of the society and funded by donations with all proceeds going to continuation of the society. The non-profit is teaming up with four Valencian chefs, sponsoring their visas and providing housing within the historical brownstone where big names such as Pablo Picasso and Frederico Garcia Lorca are said to have stayed.
Chef de Cuisine, Javier Parreño Grande of the Valencian restaurant Delicat is curating the menu alongside esteemed colleagues Jordi Morera Siscar of Carosel, Salvador Boix, and Garcia Sales of Restaurante Cames. Diners will enjoy classic and modern takes on Spanish dishes. The menu will feature a selection of D.O. protected Spanish cheeses, and Ibericos as well as dishes served tapas style such as Andalusian Gazpacho, Pulpo a la Gallega laid on a bed of potato crème with cames sauce and parsnip crisps, and Risotto mixed with chanterelle mushrooms, Iberico pork and artichoke chips, Tuna Belly with roasted vegetables and avocado cream. At the bar counter, donated by renowned Spanish breweries Estrella Galicia and Mahou, a libation program created by Beverage Consultant Clark Moore will feature cocktails using ingredients such as Pacharan. Beverage Director and longtime Spanish Benevolent Society member, Elizabeth Fernandez will lead the wine program consisting of small, artisanal, family-run producers who represent the wide range of Spanish wine styles from cava to sherry.
A major renovation has completely transformed the space, providing a stylish, contemporary look with a nod to the history and tradition of the Society. A tight non-profit budget was no challenge for lead designer, Neus Burillo of Off White Inc, and design consultants Claudia Levy and Javier Rios. Working with the society’s connections to the Spanish industry, they were gifted many items in the restaurant including kitchen tiles and flooring from the prestigious Porcelanosa and Roca and a beautiful white fireplace from neighborhood restaurant, Coppelia. La Nacional’s interior focuses on the importance of the society and its rich history, therefore it was only fitting to include a detailed timeline of its most significant events which now lines the main entryway. Covering the length of the raised communal table pixels an optical illusion depicting a glass of wine being poured, changing slightly at every step while maintaining its original form.
In the autumn of 1868, a small group of Spaniards gathered at the modest storefront at 151 Bowery Street in Manhattan to create the Centro Español- Spanish Benevolent Society. The founders, who came from different parts of Spain, wanted to establish a social center where all Spanish immigrants could find the support that they needed from compatriot residents in New York. Since then, other social clubs have surged with the growth of Spanish immigration, but only the Centro Español continues to promote the fraternity between all Spaniards in Manhattan.
Many Spanish immigrants disembarked in New York docks during the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries. And the Society became the focal point for Spaniards who needed to find housing, employment and health care. Today, in spite of the decrease in Spanish immigration, the center continues to maintain the legacy of its founders by hosting art exhibits, folkloric dances, music concerts, book and film presentations, lectures, food and wine tastings, and other events that maintain the culture and history of Spain and its expatriates in New York.
Located on 14th Street, between the Seventh and Eighth Avenues, the Centro is the last vestige of one the largest Spanish enclaves in New York that was affectionately referred to as Little Spain. Today, the Centro Español continues to satisfy the nostalgia of all those Spaniards who maintain a strong connection with Spain, and it complements the cultural missions of other Spanish immigrant organizations like Círculo Español, and important cultural institutions like the King Juan Carlos I Center at New York University, the Instituto Cervantes, and the Consulate of Spain in New York.
Be sure to visit and your life will forever be changed. Summer hours are Sunday – Wednesday, 4 PM – 10 PM, and Thursday – Saturday, 4 PM – 11 PM.