Serving Up Life on Small Plates
Although the word “tapas” originates from the Spanish language meaning “small portions,” don’t assume Cravings is just another Spanish restaurant. Stanka Safian, the general manager, likes to define the cuisine as an infusion of Spanish tastes. This means traditional favorites like octopus and paella are recreated in new and innovative ways and then complemented with other delightful ethnic offerings such as onion rings, pulled pork and pizza. All are served tapas-style.
The red-and-white striped awning welcomes guests to the café, where there is a warm and friendly European ambiance throughout.
When establishing the restaurant, owner Marcelo Czernizer did some research on what cuisines were missing in the Ridgewood area and decided there was a need for tapas-inspired dining. Thus, the unique bistro café was born.
Stanka has worked in the hospitality and hotel management business her entire life including owning a restaurant in her native Slovakia.
“Many people ask how much they should order, and we usually suggest two to three plates to share per person. The beauty is that you don’t have to order everything at once. You can hold on to the menu and keep ordering if you want,” she says.
When visiting Cravings, feel free to ask your waitstaff about the dishes. Some are larger than a traditional Spanish tapas dish, and the knowledgeable staff is happy to guide customers in selections that will suit their palates as well as their dietary needs.
“Food gets delivered to the table as the dishes are prepared,” Stanka says. “Timing is everything with tapas, so there is a constant back and forth with the staff waiting tables. We have the most amazing employees who all pitch in to help each other and serve all of our customers at every table.”
Stanka’s face lights up as she speaks of her dedicated staff, most of whom have been with the restaurant for several years.
“Teamwork is so important for this type of restaurant. Orders change on the fly, but we work together to make everything run smoothly.”
All dishes are made on the premises with the exception of a few items that are prepared at Finca, Cravings’ sister restaurant also in located in Ridgewood. Some of the most popular tapas include ricotta gnocchi, pulpo a la Gallega (grilled octopus), mussels with chorizo, truffle french fries and braised skirt steak quesadillas.
Top off those choices with one of their popular desserts including a zeppole tree (zeppole, cotton candy, strawberries and warm chocolate) or chocolate bread pudding, and you will enjoy an unforgettable experience of globally influenced cuisine.
Cravings holds a New Jersey Vine wine license, which permits them to sell New Jersey wines by the half or whole bottle. They can also make a wonderful sangria to add to the Spanish flavor of your meal.
Customer service is their No. 1 priority.
“People especially remember the beginning and the end of their dining experience. They remember the welcome they received and how you send them off, so we want to make it an enjoyable experience,” Stanka says.
The bistro enjoys seeing many guests visiting on a regular basis, which Stanka credits to the warmth and friendliness of her staff.
“We aim to create a connection with our guests because customers return when they feel they have been treated well. Making people feel good about how they are being treated is much more than just good service.”
8 Wilsey Square, Ridgewood