Despite the fact that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law over 30 years ago, it's unfortunately all too common to find that many establishments are still doing the bare minimum when it comes to ensuring accessibility. Contento, a recently debuted East Harlem hot spot, is challenging that status quo.
Earning major buzz due to its high-quality sips and flavorful Peruvian cuisine, the wine bar and eatery also stands out as a restaurant with a mission: to make the universally beloved experience of dining out enjoyable, and accessible, to all.
Contento is a collaboration between celebrated sommeliers and social advocates Yannick Benjamin and Mara Rudzinski, Executive Chef Oscar Lorenzzi and two entrepreneurs tied to Harlem and disability communities. Benjamin, who is a wheelchair user, and his partners set out to open a community gathering place that was actually inclusive. Wheelchair-friendly features are incorporated into every aspect of the design, from the lower bar counter and slightly higher tables to extra floor space for comfortable navigation. There are also adaptive utensils available for guests and, as part of their mission, the team will be utilizing the space for programming focused on social sustainability and job training for those with disabilities.
Beyond its refreshingly welcoming environment, the menu, wine offerings, and cocktails are also cause for applause. Peruvian-born Chef Lorenzzi whips up delicious, seasonally-focused dishes like Ceviche Classico, Octopus with black chimichurri and chilled cauliflower gazpacho, and the dangerously cheesy Contento Burger topped with brandy caramelized onions, green pepper aioli, and raclette.
Benjamin's curated international wine list, meanwhile, highlights winemakers from the BIPOC Community, leading female winemakers, winemakers focusing on regenerative farming and biodynamic practices, and wines that focus on social sustainability. Those looking for something a little stronger can opt for one of Heidi Turzyn's Latin-inspired sips, which include the Uno Uno Uno (mezcal, pamplemousse, jalapeño, ruby red, fresh lime) and La Marqueta (vodka, pressed watermelon, mint, yellow chartreuse).
Good eats, good drinks, and good vibes that will surely leave every guest feeling, well, contento.
[Photos courtesy Contento]