El Born (651 Manhattan Ave.) has been a favorite of Greenpoint locals for years. The Spanish restaurant offers a large selection of Barcelona-style tapas, entrees like Iberian pork ribs, and paella, plus a popular bottomless brunch and one of Greenpoint’s best happy hours.
Much of El Born’s success is due to Chef Alberto Astudillo, who has been at El Born for eight years. As Astudillo puts it, owner Elena Manich was “looking for a Spanish chef, and I was looking for an opportunity.”
Greenpointers spoke with Chef Astudillo about his start at El Born, his favorite tapas, and how he became a bit of a local celebrity.
Greenpointers: El Born is a neighborhood favorite in Greenpoint, in many ways thanks to you! How did Greenpoint get so lucky?
Astudillo: Well, Elena was looking for a Spanish chef, and I was looking for an opportunity!
I have been working in restaurants since l was 19. I started in several restaurants in Madrid gaining experience. My mentor and best friend, Jesus Nuñez, brought me to New York when he opened his own restaurant.
El Born and I were a good match, but the start was really hard. There was a time that Elena considered closing the restaurant. But with the effort of every single individual, we pushed forward to succeed.
Greenpointers: Greenpoint is very glad you succeeded! Many locals have been to El Born multiple times, but for first timers or those visiting, what would you recommend?
Astudillo: Tapas are great because they allow for the possibility of trying a little of everything. Tapas are part of our culture as the combination of good food and good times with friends or family.
So, I would recommend trying several of the simple tapas and dishes. The simple ones are always the most popular. Try the bravas, croquetas, paellas, and octopus. These four are options that you can order in any bar in Spain.
Greenpointers: Do you prefer making simple tapas or more elaborate dishes?
Astudillo: I think simple is good, but my favorite dish to cook right now is the Iberico pork ribs. To make them so tender, we cook them for 24 hours at a low temperature in a sous vide. So, it’s more elaborate than the simple tapas, but I really enjoy the process.
Greenpointers: You mentioned your start at El Born was difficult and the restaurant’s path to success was a bit rocky. Are you glad you stuck around?
Astudillo: I have to say that the first time l came to Greenpoint, l didn’t like it that much. Now, the neighborhood is a part of my life! I really like McCarren Park and enjoy going to restaurants near there.
Greenpointers: You’re a bit of a local celebrity! You were on the cooking show, Iron Chef America, right?
Astudillo: Yes, I was on Iron Chef with Jesus Nuñez in 2011. We took part in the Octopus Battle. A friend and fan of Jesus’ restaurant was a judge on the show… so that’s how we got on!