Alex Raij

Chef and restaurateur
New York, New York

The lighting is dim. There’s a long, earthy-looking bar, a wall of wood panels and a tree mural painted on the far side of the room; Matisse-eque, conveying an image of giving; nature; bounty. Both the wine and the food make you want to have another. You want to try another wine or another dish at Txikito (chi-kee-to), one of three restaurants co-owned by Alex Raij and her husband, Eder Montero.

Now that I’m back in New York and missing all of those Basque and Spanish treats I had on the regs in Bilbao (bacalao and pintxos and txakoli and patatas bravas and squid and salty, green peppers … to name a few), I’m happy to have found a spot in NYC where I can try a fresh take on some of my favorite Spanish dishes. Alex squeezed in a few minutes to chat with me on Friday, before the busy evening service at Txikito. We talked about her restaurants (Txikito, El Quinto Pino and La Vara) and of course, we discussed what she likes for breakfast. Hablamos!

Coffee or tea?

Cortadito!*

Beer or wine?

Both.

Describe your typical breakfast.

Cortadito.

What is your earliest food-related memory?

Raisins. (B2S: Nuff said.)

Describe your ideal sandwich.

I’m a sandwich-obsessed person. I love building the perfect sandwich and our amazing sandwiches live at El quinto pino, our tapas bar. If I had to pick:

Our Uni panini because it is so refined and luxurious;

or

Our Cubano with a layer of Pringá in addition to the usual suspects** because it is super balanced.

Where would you travel to eat?

Anywhere, but India or Japan are currently on the top of my list.

Name 5 people you would like to invite to a dinner party.

Assuming my husband and I are co-hosting:

Ira Glass, Jacques Pépin, my best friend Michelle Caulfield, Roseanne Cash and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

What are you in the mood to eat right now?

Pho soup.

*Cortadito is a cute way of saying cortado. If you don’t know what a cortado is, you best ask somebody.

**Pressed sandwich of homemade morcilla, jamón, peppers, cheese, pickle, “salsa especial”.

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