La Paella: Recipe for Romance

Q&A with chef-owner Carlos Campoverde
October 31, 2014 Updated: October 8, 2018

Restaurant: La Paella
Location: East Village
Open since: 1995

Epoch Times: All the dried red roses hanging from the ceiling are striking. How many are there?
Carlos Campoverde: 1,400. We change them every 6–7 years.

Epoch Times: How did you get your start in the business?
Mr. Campoverde: I was a chef in the restaurant that was here before, cooking Mediterranean cuisine. 

It’s in the family, too. All of my six brothers are businessmen and have restaurants. They worked here, they learned here, and went on to open restaurants. Each of them is a good chef, too. It’s a passion.

Epoch Times: Tell us about La Paella. What stands out here?
Mr. Campoverde: [In the beginning] we looked here, all around and downtown, and no one had this kind of place. Also this is romantic. We combine candlelight and roses. 

If you are single, you come one day, and you find a man or woman right away—seriously. 

Epoch Times: You’ve seen a lot of people finding love here?
Mr. Campoverde: In all my years here, I’ve seen people meeting here, getting engaged here, and even marrying downstairs [where private events can be held]. 

Last week, people from San Francisco came in. They said, ‘This place is still open?’ I said yes. The man said, ‘Wow, I met my wife here.’ And they had brought their kids here, they were like 12 years old. 

A lot of people, they meet here. I remember where I met my wife. It’s forever going to be a special place to me.

People now come here with their children. It’s like a little bit of history.

Last March, they met here—a Puerto Rican guy and a Puerto Rican girl. They came to me and said ‘Carlos, we want to marry here.’ And they married here. And then later, they had their baby shower here. So many stories.

Epoch Times: What dishes do you suggest to set a romantic mood?
Mr. Campoverde: For me, paella is number one. We specialize in paella. The paella at La Paella is the number one paella in New York City. We do six versions: Basque, Negra, Catalana, Verdura, and Marinera. For the holidays we also do paella with lobster at a good price. 

Epoch Times: What are your most popular tapas?
Mr. Campoverde: I cannot mention just one. For me everything is popular. For me, Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce), the Pinchos de Cordero y Salchicha (lamb and sausage skewers), the Tortilla Española (egg, potato, and onion omelet) is the best here; it’s different from other places. 

Epoch Times: La Paella’s 20th year anniversary is coming up. How are you celebrating?
Mr. Campoverde: We are bringing in live music and flamenco. 

We’re also bringing back dishes from 20 years ago. They were so popular, I don’t know why I took them off. For example: Chipirones en su Tinta (stuffed squid with squid ink and tomatoes), Calabacines Rellenos (stuffed squash with vegetable and almond sauce), Espárragos Blancos (white asparagus with lemon), Albondigas (meatballs in tomato sauce), Pimientos Rellenos de Bacalao (red peppers stuffed with cod and bechamel), fish tapas, and Escalopos (sautéed scallops, marinated with rosemary and lemon juice). And also Platos Mixtos, an assorted mix of tapas.

La Paella
214 E. Ninth St. (between Second and Third avenues)
Monday–Thursday 5 p.m.–11 p.m.
Friday & Saturday noon–11:30 p.m.
Sunday noon–11 p.m.

Specials at La Paella

Lunch set:
$9.99 per person, noon to 4 p.m.
Happy hour: 
Sunday–Thursday 5 p.m.–7 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 4 p.m.–6 p.m. 
Early bird dinner menu:
Three courses plus a glass of sangria or beer
Sunday–Thursday 4 p.m.–7 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 4 p.m.–6 p.m.