Underwear model-turned-chef Franco Noriega’s bringing his Peruvian rotisserie chicken restaurant Baby Brasa to the West Village — in one of the neighborhood’s most memorable spaces. A bigger version of his Lower East Side take-out spot will be going into the former Empire Szechuan Village building at 173 7th Ave., a local mainstay that closed in 2015 after 30 years in the area. The bi-level space seats more than 80 people, so unlike the original Baby Brasa outpost, this location will be a full-service restaurant with cocktails and a much larger menu.
Expect the new dishes to still be Peruvian, including lots of "superfoods" from the country, Noriega says. The chef — who frequently appears on TV and in public with his abs on full display — wants it to be "simple, easy, delicious food that’s extremely healthy and organic," he says. "I want people to start thinking that you can actually eat superfoods and not think that you’re eating [such healthy foods] because they’re so delicious," he says. "They’re just there." Think artichokes, quinoa, and desserts made with maca, a Peruvian root thought to be packed with nutrients. Other Peruvian additions include meat skewers, pisco-based cocktails, and potatoes with huancaina, a spicy sauce. Baby Brasa West Village will also offer more vegetarian dishes than the first one, liked grilled vegetables and marinated tempeh.
Even though Noriega’s recent appearances on TV shows like Ellen has attracted plenty of tourists to the LES Baby Brasa, the restaurateur says that most of diners are repeat customers from the neighborhood. And since it opened in June, nearly 40 percent of delivery orders have come from the West Village, he says. It made sense to open there, too. "Baby Brasa has become a neighborhood place," he says. "A lot of people don’t want to cook and want to eat delicious and want to eat healthy." He’s still planning to open a version of Baby Brasa in Williamsburg, but the West Village outpost will likely open earlier, in February.