GARFIELD, N.J. – Maritza Rivera of Garfield learned to cook by watching her grandmother in Puerto Rico.
“She cooked every day and I always looked at her,” said Rivera. “She never took the time to show me, per se, this is how you do it. Everything that I learned was just looking at her.”
All that watching certainly paid off.
Three months ago, Rivera opened Mari’s Kitchen in Garfield, where she serves her own authentic Puerto Rican food, such as empanadas, fritters, roasted pork and chicken.
“People are crazy for the empanadas. I should have named it Empanada House,” she joked.
Although Rivera learned to cook Puerto Rican food from her grandmother, that didn’t prepare her to cook for large groups of people. She learned that by running the kitchen at her church, Powerhouse Christian Ministries in Clifton.
“I started going to church 13 years ago, and I was in charge of the kitchen, so all the activities, I would be the one cooking for them,” she said.
Since starting her restaurant, other people have taken over the church kitchen, she said. But she recently returned to cook for a missionary banquet.
“To cook for a lot of people you have to know how to do it, and they all loved it,” she said.
Mari’s Kitchen will hold its official grand opening on Saturday, April 8, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. A ribbon cutting is set for 1 p.m. with Garfield Mayor Richard Rigoglioso.
The restaurant is located at 20 Plauderville Ave. in Garfield.