Meet FOF restaurateur Sonia Zaldivar

FOF Sonia Zaldivar grew up in the restaurant business. Victor’s Cafe, opened by Sonia’s parents, is celebrating its 50th year serving fabulous Cuban cuisine to New Yorkers, celebrities, and tourists from around the globe. After raising three children and managing Victor’s, Sonia now lives in Miami, but still travels back to New York to keep an eye on things.

How old are you?
I’m 62.

Where were you born?

Havana, Cuba.

Where is your restaurant?
It’s on 52nd Street in the heart of Manhattan.

What is it like being part of a family business?
I grew up as if the restaurant were my living room and my three children felt the same way.

What positions have you had at Victor’s?
I started working part-time in 1972 in the restaurant’s office, because I was raising my first child. Slowly and surely, I took on more responsibilities. I’m still the owner, but my wonderful daughter, Monica, handles the day-to-day operations. I fly back and forth monthly.

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 1.04.51 PMWhere does the inspiration for the dishes come from?
They’re all dishes that you’d find in any Cuban home. However, we have two versions of our menu– one features ‘healthy’ variations of classical dishes. Cuban food really hasn’t evolved as much as other cuisines during the last 50 years. The second version offers our own inventions and interpretations of Cuban food, had it evolved like other cuisines. Ropa Vieja (shredded skirt steak), Lechon Asado (roast suckling pig), and Camarones Enchiladas (shrimp in spicy Creole sauce) have been staples on the menu for many years. Dishes range from $19 to $42.

Who has been at the restaurant recently?
Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Kate Upton and Cameron Diaz. Pitbull comes in frequently and Jennifer Lopez gets take out!

With so many restaurants in New York City, how has Victor’s achieved 50 years of success?
Every seven years, we redecorate the whole restaurant so that it’s fresh, it’s clean, and there’s always something new to try. We’re always revamping the menu. When you walk into our restaurant, you can feel the gratitude that you chose us over other restaurants in New York. You feel the love, the enthusiasm and the Latin hospitality.

What’s the most challenging thing about owning a restaurant?
Keeping relevant with the times while maintaining the authenticity of a restaurant that’s been in operation for half a century.