Neighborhood Eats: Nneji serves up Nigerian, West African food in Queens

ASTORIA, Queens (WABC) -- The owner of Nneji signed the lease on March 1 for a space in Queens, opened for business and she is glad she did.

"Not everything was where we needed it to be but when phase two came and the governor gave us the okay we said 'this is a moment,'" Beatrice Ajaero said.

It was a moment at which the 29-year-old Ajaero had looked forward to her whole life.

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Despite having an MBA and a law degree, owning a restaurant was her big goal.

At Nneji, she's serves Nigerian and West African food like goat stew, egusi soup with melon seeds, and red stew flavored with cow skin.

"Cow skin is a powerhouse, heavy collagen and vitamin D," Ajaero said.

Beatrice started selling her food two years ago at the farmers' market on Roosevelt Island, where she grew up and still lives, but neighboring Astoria was always a culinary destination for her family.

"For us, Astoria was a way to access cultural food, more cultural food, I would say," Ajaero said.

A year ago she opened a home goods shop, but her customers clamored for more. They wanted to try her food.

"It's the first west African place that's opened in this neighborhood. The cuisine is different nicely spiced," one customer said.

"I like the red stew and I like the Yassa," another said.

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For now, Nneji has no tables or chairs, a decision Ajaero made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We tell them 'go home, sit on the floor and eat with your hands,'" Ajaero said.

Like they would in Nigeria, her parents' homeland, for which she has a deep passion.

"I guess the feeling is to never forget where you come from," Ajaero said.

Nneji is open for lunch and dinner.

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