EAST HARLEM, Manhattan -- Contento, a Peruvian restaurant in Manhattan, is spreading happiness with its innovative embrace of accessibility.
"We created a space that welcomes everyone. Regardless of your ability or disability," said George Gallego, one of Contento's five managing partners.
Gallego and partners Lorenz Skeeter, Yannick Benjamin, Mara Rudzinski, and Oscar Lorenzzi brought Contento to life.
"It really combined two worlds that I was working in for a very long time: the hospitality world and working with people with disabilities, trying to raise awareness," said Rudzinski.
Having personally encountered a lot of discrimination and disrespect due to his disability at other establishments, Gallego made it his mission to create a fully inclusive space.
"When we started creating Contento we wanted to make sure that no one experienced any of the negative things we've experienced in the past," Gallego explained.
All of Contento's employees have completed special training that goes beyond your typical hospitality and restaurant responsibilities so they can learn the needs of folks with different kinds of disabilities.
"We're open to modify anything that needs to be modified so that everyone can be comfortable," said Gallego.
There are plenty of thoughtful design decisions that went into the space. The front entrance is wider than your average doorway, which allows larger power chairs to fit through. The bathroom is entirely accessible. The dining tables are taller than the average table. The bar has two different heights: one is the standard bar height, and then there is a secondary section that is counter height so that people using manual or power chairs can easily roll up and sit at the bar. They have adapted utensils created by a company called Dining with Dignity. And they even offer their menu in Braille.
"When people try my food, I want them to feel happy...I want them to feel contento," said executive chef Oscar Lorenzzi.
"We're here with open arms ready to receive anyone who wants to experience the Contento experience," said Gallego.