Photos courtesy of Buleria Tapas & Wine Bar
Led by restaurateur Luca Lucido-Balestrieri, Buleria Tapas & Wine Bar celebrates the flavors of Spain in Westchester.
A lover of all things Spain, restaurateur Luca Lucido-Balestrieri of Italy opened Buleria Tapas & Wine Bar as an anthem to the country — and the woman — that stole his heart. Lucido-Balestrieri was a horseback rider while growing up on the volcanic island of Ischia, in the Gulf of Naples, but was drawn to the south of Spain by the allure of the majestic Andalusian horses. “I explored the epicurean delights of Spain and the beauty of the countryside. And with the wisdom I got from horseback riding there, I fell in love with it all.”
Back home, his family owned pizzerias and bakeries, but Lucido-Balestrieri developed an insatiable appetite for the cuisine and “gypsy rhythms” of Seville, the capital of tapas and flamenco. But as the dance of life goes, he found himself bussing tables in NYC at age 20, speaking not a word of English. He rose quickly through the restaurant ranks and became known as “the singing waiter” at the former Angelo’s on Mulberry Street.
With a world of food and industry know-how packed in his pockets, Lucido-Balestrieri launched Latin-themed restaurants in the Bronx, New Rochelle, and then Salsa Bembe in Yonkers. “I love the musical component of a restaurant, and it’s fun to have a Latin one,” he says. “It’s the closest thing to being a rock star.” Singing, dancing, and falling in love to the frenzied beat of the Spanish pop song “Buleria”, Lucido-Balestrieri told the woman he’d later marry: “If I ever do a tapas restaurant, I’ll call it Buleria.”
Opened in late January — among the five Italian restaurants and two Italian delis that dominate Tuckahoe’s tiny downtown — Buleria Tapas & Wine Bar is a modern, sophisticated riff on an old-world Spanish tavern, where richly authentic hot and cold tapas, salads, sangria, and mainly Spanish wines (many from small producers) pave the way for entrées of churrasco, branzino, and the “queen of the menu” — paella.
Lucido-Balestrieri imports virtually all ingredients from Spain, including volcanic water, and designs every dish (and cocktail) himself, to be finely executed by Chef Reyes Hernandez, formerly of Irvington’s Red Hat on the River. “I’m a purist,” he says. “I stick to tradition; I’m obsessed by it. It’s so hard to get it right, to master the traditions of the country.” The tapas of chorizo and chickpeas and the rosemary half-chicken main elicit an earthy taste and farm-fresh texture seldom enjoyed outside the European countryside.
As in the dens of Seville, “The focus is on the food and the people you’re with,” says Lucido-Balestrieri, which translates to no TV. In its place, towering portraits of bullfighting and a vibrant, sweeping flamenco dancer who, when paired with exquisite Spanish food and gently audible gypsy rhythms, dazzles like no flat screen ever could.
106 Main St, Tuckahoe; 914.600.8639; buleriatapas.com