For Brooklyn native Lester Gouvia serving the public meant recreating dishes he grew up eating as a child.
Those dishes and memories eventually led to the creation of Norma G’s Cuisine, celebrated as the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood’s first dine-in restaurant in 30 years.
Norma G’s, located at 14700 E. Jefferson Ave., opened its doors Aug. 28 and had an official grand opening ceremony Sept. 11. The move could signal more business growth along East Jefferson.
Derric Scott, economic development director of Jefferson East, Inc., says the importance of businesses like Norma G’s opening in the area shouldn’t be underestimated. The jobs and customer traffic can help serve as a catalyst for the neighborhood.
“You don’t see a lot of market activity there, as you would see in other areas like Midtown and New Center,” Scott says. “So, where there are a lot of people interested in the neighborhood, the market just isn’t there to drive the investment. Having a leader like Norma G’s come into the community ultimately sparks the development you would hope to continue to see in the neighborhood.”
Public officials including Mayor Mike Duggan attended the grand opening of the restaurant inspired by Gouvia’s mother.
“They’re all her recipes, to some extent, but I tweak it for myself,” Gouvia says. “It’s really just how much good food she made from just simple things.”
Gouvia says having a dine-in restaurant is a gradual next step from the food truck he operated to build his brand. He left the corporate world of technical sales to start the business named in his mother’s honor.
Much of the menu consists of recipes he enjoyed at home for Sunday dinner. Gouvia says the Caribbean dishes like coo-coo and callaloo, a traditional Trinidadian treat, are healthy and made with love. Coo-coo is made of cornmeal and pumpkin. Coconut and hot peppers make up the callaloo, which is, incidentally, a vegan dish, Gouvia says.
“I’m from Trinidad, but I am not a Trinidadian restaurant,” he says. “I’m a Caribbean restaurant.”
There are about a dozen employees, both full-time and part-time, at Norma G’s, which is open from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. The restaurant is open from 4:30 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.
Gabriel McNeil, sous chef at Norma G’s, has been working with Gouvia for about four years, including the food truck.
McNeil says the patrons appear to really enjoy the food, which has a positive impact on him.
“I think they love it,” he adds. “For me, it gets tiring. They won’t stop coming, but it’s a great thing.”
Editor’s Note: This small business feature is sponsored by Bank of America. To learn more about Bank of America’s many programs and resources for small business owners visit: https://www.bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness/business-financing.go.