HARLEM — New Harlem Besame, a Latin fusion restaurant that opened Friday, already has 62 years of history.
On the wall of the dining room at 2070 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. hangs a massive black and white portrait of Clara Francis Rubie, a beautiful young woman with flowers in her hair and the words "est. 1952" printed beside her.
“My grandmother was the matriarch of the family, she was a self-taught cook,” said her grandson Osei Rubie, 44, who opened New Harlem Besame with his father Bernard, 64, Friday.
“We wanted to pay tribute to her."
The Rubie’s come from a long line of entrepreneurs. Clara Francis’ husband, Dennis, had a restaurant called Dennie’s in San Jose, Costa Rica. Both Bernard and Osei learned about the restaurant industry there.
They’d get home from school and help prep for dinner service. As they grew older they would learn about the business side of the operation, the younger Rubie said.
From Costa Rica, the family moved to Liberia where Bernard started multiple businesses including a restaurant. The family moved to Harlem in the 1980s.
Up to now, the family hasn't ventured into the restaurant business in Harlem, but with all the new eateries opening up in the neighborhood they felt the time was right.
New Harlem Besame aims to combine Latin and Caribbean flavors with Harlem soul.
“This is a true union of cultures,” Rubie said. “The ribs marinated in guava. Everybody tried them at the soft opening and their minds were blown.”
Appetizers, including home-made guacamole, range between $7 and $10. Entrees, like the ribs and a garlic marinated chicken breast, cost between $14 to $20.
The decor is a mix of West African artwork — a 9-by-20 foot mural carved out of mahogany that tells the story of Liberia — and Latin craftsmanship in the form of a hand carved wooden bar.
It also have a piece of Harlem history. The famed boxer Sugar Ray Robinson owned several businesses on the block including a restaurant, “Sugar Ray’s” at the same location as New Harlem Besame.
Rubie and his father sought out Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard because it hasn’t gotten the same attention that other parts of the neighborhood have.
“What we noticed is restaurant row has been developed in two areas, Lenox Avenue and Fredrick Douglass Boulevard,” he said. “There is nobody hear in terms of casual dining. We are going to add to Harlem and be in the middle of it.”