Babalu opens amid fanfare

The owners of Babalu are (l.) William Padilla and Chef Alex Garcia.

Babalu, a new restaurant on E. Tremont Avenue that proudly boasts being a Chef Alex Garcia restaurant, is drawing rave reviews by the local community.

The restaurant, billed as a place “where Latin food and music dance together,” has gotten off to a fast start since replacing Club 7one8 at 3233 E. Tremont Avenue and opening its doors in February, said Garcia, one of the owners who operates Babalu with former 7one8 owner and Throggs Neck resident William Padilla. Garcia is the owner of two restaurants in Manhattan: Copacabana at 268 W. 47 Street and Calle Ocho at 45 W. 81 Street, he said. Padilla is a retired FDNY lieutenant and owner of Bronx Base Builders.

The restaurant takes its name from the title of a song Rickey Ricardo performed in the “I Love Lucy” television series, and promises to be a dinning destination where a wide selection of Latin food, including meat and fish, is cooked very simply on the griddle, Garcia said. He hopes to make the restaurant a staple of cuisine in Throggs Neck, the same way Tosca and Patricia’s are instantly recognizable to those familiar with E. Tremont Avenue restaurant fare.

“I think the more restaurants that are here, the better,” Garcia said. “If we can create a dinning destination that attracts not only people from the neighborhood, but also from the entire Bronx and even from Westchester, it is a great thing.”

Babalu will have an outdoor sidewalk cafe coming in the summer, and will be expanding to including a lunch menu, Garcia said. Right now, Babalu has a number of specials that represent dishes from countries all over Latin America: Cuban Arroz Imperial, Puerto Rican bacalaitos, pernil, chupe limeno, Brazilian moquenca, Veracruzano, and pabellon criollo. The specials menu will change regularly, Garcia stated.

“We are excited about the summer when we open the sidewalk cafe because then we can really showcase the restaurant,” said Garcia, who has been in the restaurant business since 1987 and is a graduate of both Florida International University and The Culinary Institute of America, located in Dutchess County.

Partnering with Padilla has added depth and dimension to the project, with Padilla keeping a keen eye on the music in the restaurant so that it will sound like what Latino patrons who may have emigrated to the United States remember from home, Garcia stated.

The restaurant is also fluent in serving entrees family style, Garcia said.

“We do a great concept with the food where everything is made to be shared,” Garcia stated. “Everyone gets a small plate and a large plate and then when the food comes you serve yourself.”

So far, the reaction from the community has been welcoming and positive, Garcia said.

For more information about Babalu, please visit, or call (718) 824-8400.

More from Around NYC