Real Spanish food is a rarity on Long Island, where “tapas” can mean a pastrami egg roll and “paella” usually describes a pot of yellow rice topped with seafood.
A new business in Babylon Village hopes to change all that. NoaMar , a combination grocery store, cafe and tapas bar, opened on July 25, the feast day of Spain’s patron saint, James the Apostle.
Owners Heri and Frances Beiro have roots in Galicia, Spain’s northwestern-most region, and have recreated in their Long Island hometown the sort of establishment common back in the old country. “It’s traditional in Spain for a market to have some tables where you can sit and eat and have a coffee or a snack,” Frances said.
NoaMar is named after the couple’s two oldest children, Noah and Marcus. Its inspiration was a “capstone project” Frances did when she was studying for her MBA from Hofstra University. “Heri and I saw how Spanish and Portuguese people from Long Island had to travel to Queens or New Jersey to get products from home; we figured they would appreciate a market closer to home.”
Heri was a double threat when it came to making the business plan a reality: A contractor by trade, he had also graduated from the now-defunct Star Culinary Academy in Syosset. It took him a few months to gut what had been an old deli, uncovering brick walls, making lavish use of red-and-blue Spanish tiles, and building floor-to-ceiling shelves to hold the groceries.
Tables, some of which are simply marble-slab-topped wine barrels, accommodate about two dozen people. The menu is centered around traditional tapas (Galician-style octopus, patatas bravas, croquetas, garlic shrimp) and montaditos, little sandwiches, such as serrano ham with piquillo peppers or pork loin with mustard and cornichons. There are also salads, platters of Spanish cheeses and cured meats, and desserts. Almost everything is priced less than $15. To wash everything down: Spanish beers on draft and Spanish wine by the glass or bottle.
Working alongside Heri in the kitchen is Pierre Rougey, an old Babylon hand who was executive chef at Barrique and, before that, chef-partner at Emerson’s.
Spain is famous for the quality of its preserved goods, and NoaMar sells a full range of tuna packed in olive oil, anchovy fillets, Manzanilla olives (stuffed with pimento or almonds or tuna), cuttlefish ink, piquillo peppers, pimenton (smoked paprika), plus fine Spanish olive oils and Sherry vinegars. There’s real bomba rice for making paella, as well as paelleras (paella pans) of every size. On a less exalted note, you can find Cola Cao, the chocolate drink mix that is the Iberian equivalent of Nestle Nesquik.
NoaMar is at 238 Deer Park Ave., Babylon, 631-482-1667, noamarmarkets.com