by, Christine Nappi, Features Editor
The Quadrangle spoke to Richard Berroa, owner of Claudy’s Kitchen, as part of a new column, Riverdale Rises, highlighting local businesses defying the odds during the pandemic.
Peruvian food has been a prominent part of Claudia Berroa’s life, however, she wasn’t always a cook. After her first child was born, Claudia searched for a way to stay at home with her daughter and make living. To do so, she turned to the kitchen and embraced her Peruvian roots where she soon discovered a hidden talent for cooking Peruvian food. Eventually, her talent turned into a business: from selling to friends and family to catering and wholesaling at local stores and supermarkets, Claudia’s Peruvian style food was making its mark.
However, Claudia and her husband Richard dreamt of bringing Peruvian food to Riverdale, a neighborhood they’ve called home since 2007. In June of 2020, Claudia and Richard took their business one step further and Claudy’s Kitchen, located at 5981 Broadway, was born– yet the restaurant came to fruition in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[The business] grew into a dream of opening up our own place, a place where [Claudia] can showcase her food,” Richard Berroa said. “Ultimately that’s what Claudy’s has become. It’s definitely been a labor of love… with the pandemic, while other places are shuttering our sales are increasing and I think it’s just a tribute to the food but also our hard work and a desire to provide the best possible food.”
Claudia and Richard were initially drawn to open Claudy’s Kitchen in the Riverdale area because they have been long- time members of the community and saw a need for local Peruvian cuisine. The mom and pop style restaurant provides quick-service Peruvian food from empanadas to flan and more, and mostly consists of takeout orders. According to Richard, Claudy’s Kitchen is equipped with a top-tier kitchen that creates a dining experience that can’t be replicated at home.
When opening during the pandemic, the Berroa’s didn’t know if their business would either fail or succeed.
“You’re seeing all these established places failing,” Richard said. “It’s our first restaurant and we basically didn’t have a choice, it’s either sink or swim. That’s the environment. And, you know, we just, we continued doing what we’ve always been doing, which is trying to provide the best possible product and service, being friendly and welcoming and trying to educate people because a lot of people don’t really know Peruvian food.”
Although Claudy’s Kitchen is designed as a quick-style takeout restaurant, Richard describes that about 25 percent of their business comes from dine-in orders. The current indoor dining restrictions in New York City have stunted their business slightly, however, they’ve still managed to stay afloat.
“Psychologically, being shut down keeps a lot of people away,” Richard said. “Even though we’re doing better than most businesses, in this situation, it’s still been a challenge because we’re still not at 100 percent.”
However, Richard finds that being ambassadors of quality Peruvian food, providing stellar service and showcasing a welcoming attitude are factors that have set their business apart from others and helped them succeed. Richard outlines their food philosophy for success in three words: bueno, bonito, and barato.
“We have a food philosophy, which is in Spanish it’s BBB, bueno, bonito, and barato which in English translates to good, aesthetically pleasing and a good value,” Richard said. “It’s basically what we look for in restaurants and that’s what we want for people finding restaurants.”
Similarly, Claudia credits the success of their business amid COVID-19 to the unique food Claudy’s serves. She describes Claudy’s serves food like no other in the area, which draws customers in, even during the pandemic.
“The pandemic has been scary,” Claudia said. “I’m glad we have a lot of customers, they love the food [and] there’s a lot of support from the neighborhood… people like eating something different [and] this is so different.”
Claudy’s Kitchen has been able to overcome the challenges brought on by the pandemic due to their food and service, however, Richard and Claudia also credit their success to the supportive Riverdale community.
When the restaurant first opened, members of the Riverdale community rallied around Claudy’s Kitchen in support of the business. Claudia and Richard are incredibly thankful for the support of the community during this time and find that their supportive customer base has helped them hurdle the barriers brought on by the pandemic.
“I’m so grateful for all the support these customers have for us,” Claudia said. “ I remember when we just open[ed], I couldn’t believe… [there] was a big line outside [and] I fell on my hands and I was crying because we didn’t know we’re going to make it [and I’m] just happy and thank for everyone for the support they’ve given us.”
Claudy’s Kitchen has also reciprocated the tremendous support they’ve received by giving back to the community. This past fall, they participated in the MC community clean-up effort and they have teamed up with Friendly Fridge and the Moms Feed the Bronx organization to allow people to donate meals from Claudy’s Kitchen to the fridge located at The Last Stop on Broadway.
Although a majority of the college community was not present when Claudy’s Kitchen first opened, some Manhattan College members have been supporting the business since day one. One of these members is Robert Walsh, the Senior Adviser to MC’s president Brennan O’Donnell. Walsh has supported Richard and Claudia since last year when he first met them as finalists in the 1010 WINS Small Business Challenge, a program he moderates for the Radio Station.
“I was thrilled when I heard [the restaurant] was going to be a stone’s throw from Campus,” Walsh wrote in an email. “Over the past year, I have watched Rich build [the restaurant] out and Claudia delivering great dishes. The pandemic has been a real stumbling block for them and I admire how they have fought on, pivoting to take[out] and delivery.”
Walsh encourages all members of the MC community to support Claudy’s Kitchen because of how committed they’ve been to helping the community and being a friend to others.
“They already have been great with Manhattan College on a community cleanup effort that we had in the Fall,” Walsh wrote. “Rich was very active and engaged– now it is our turn to be extra supportive. And you will not go wrong with this advice– try the empanadas!”
From serving the Riverdale and MC community and beyond, Claudy’s Kitchen has not only been committed to providing Riverdale with the best quality Peruvian food, but they’ve also been committed to being an above all a friend to the community at large.
“I want to get across that we’re neighbors, we’re not just business owners,” Richard said. “This is our home and we’re honored and happy to have our neighbors supporting us.”