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Tiny Manhattan Valley Restaurants Offer Bite-Sized Dining Rooms

Freda's Caribbean & Soul Cuisine's most popular dish is oxtail served with callaloo, chick peas,curry potatoes,cabbage and rice.
Freda's Caribbean & Soul Cuisine's most popular dish is oxtail served with callaloo, chick peas,curry potatoes,cabbage and rice.
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DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

MANHATTAN VALLEY — Forget small plates — some Manhattan Valley eateries are specializing in small dining rooms.

Several neighborhood restaurants are giving new meaning to the term bite-sized with dining rooms that aren't much bigger than studio apartments.

Busters, on Amsterdam Avenue between West 103rd and 104th streets, seats up to 18 diners comfortably on seven tables in a dining room that's just under 400 square feet, said owner Fidel Hernandez.

The restaurant serves what Hernandez calls "Spatinental cuisine" — light, healthy takes on everyday food like burgers, pasta primavera and Waldorf salad.

Hernandez says his tiny restaurant offers better customer service than bigger establishments because he's more accountable to his diners. And he isn't just the owner — Hernandez is also the sole waiter, baker, cleaner, promoter and linen washer.

He also splits cooking duties with business partner Glenn Trickel in Busters' miniature kitchen.

"We have to face [our customers] every single day," Hernandez said. "If you have integrity, there's no chance you're going to cut corners. The personal attention is the best."

At Buca Brick Oven Pizza, located on West 103rd Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway, a maximum of 20 customers can enjoy the wood-fired Neopolitan pizza in a space that's about 390 square feet.

Owner Sebastiano Cappitta, who also owns the much larger restaurants Acqua and Bettola, said he opened Buca as a challenge to himself.

"I always thought, wouldn't it be nice to have a little place with low rent where you could offer the best food for the value," Cappitta said. "It's worked out so far. People feel like it's a secret over here on a side street."

Cappitta likes to think of the restaurant, which provides every table with a view of its wood-burning brick oven, as a hideaway for diners looking for an intimate evening out.

"It's like being in somebody's kitchen, because the oven is right there," he said. "It's a neighborhood feel, not a corporate feel."

Several other Manhattan Valley restaurants have attracted large followings with smaller than average dining rooms.

Krik Krak, a Haitian restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue and West 101st Street, has just six tables and serves "outstanding" eats in a quaint setting, according to one online reviewer. And Taqueria y Fonda, on Amsterdam Avenue between West 107th and 108th streets, has just a few tables, but makes up for its tiny space with extra large, California-style burritos.