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Restaurateur Nicki Laborie’s Reyna is a Haven for Mediterranean Cuisine and Women’s Empowerment in NYC

Restaurateur Nickie Laborie’s Reyna is a Haven for Mediterranean Cuisine and Women’s Empowerment in NYC
Photo Courtesy: Ryan Emberley / Nicki Laborie, Owner REYNA

By: Jahleah Santiago

As the owner of Reyna, a chic Mediterranean tapas restaurant nestled at 11 East 13th Street, Nicki Laborie stands out as both a passionate restaurateur and a fierce advocate for women in the hospitality industry. Whether she’s at the helm of operations on-site, helping to create unique menu signatures like the Lamb Baklava, or pioneering change through events like the Culinary Creators Project where she was a panelist last month, Nicki Laborie lives the Reyna mission statement. Her “people bring back people” mission statement at Reyna has worked exceptionally well. “For us in management, we want to make sure people are happy and things are done with love. In turn, we give that experience and translate that message to guests,” Nicki explained, and since its Toronto opening in 2016, Reyna has done just that. Its Manhattan location, which opened in 2022, follows that trend, offering a mix of classic and contemporary dishes that appeal to a wide range of tastes in a stunning atmosphere.

Restaurateur Nickie Laborie’s Reyna is a Haven for Mediterranean Cuisine and Women’s Empowerment in NYC

Photo Courtesy: Ryan Emberley / Reyna Interior

Reyna’s culinary offerings are a celebration of the rich tapestry of Mediterranean cuisine and culture. “We’re talking Portuguese, Spain, French, Italian, Greek, they’re all on the coast of the Mediterranean. When I first opened Reyna, which means ‘Queen’ in Spanish, people automatically thought it was Spanish cuisine but it wasn’t about that. It was about femininity. I’m a very think-outside-the-box person. I said to my chef at the time, why can’t we do a combination, why can’t we do a paella and a shawarma platter on the same menu? They’re all Mediterranean. I don’t want to have the same menu items as the next restaurant,” she stated emphatically. The regional influences seen on the menu, Nicki credits to her travels, “I travel a lot, and I always come back with flavors from different countries. So, I went to Portugal, and I discovered for example a Cataplana, basically a seafood stew and it’s very famous. It’s not on the menu in New York, but it was on the menu in Canada. It was one of our opening staple dishes that influenced the menu. There are always influences from different countries, but it’s not like we’re fusing them, I’m not making a Lebanese flavored paella, it’s a Spanish paella. If we’re doing Shawarma, it’s a Lebanese Shawarma but it’s all on one menu and those flavors mesh really well.”

Restaurateur Nickie Laborie’s Reyna is a Haven for Mediterranean Cuisine and Women’s Empowerment in NYC

Photo Courtesy: Jahleah Santiago / Reyna Paella

At Reyna, Executive Chef Yarisis Jacobo brings over a decade of expertise to the table, infusing the menu with Mediterranean delights. From house-made dips, to flavorful shawarma platters and fresh seafood. Options range from light Falafel Bites, to fresh Eggplant Carpaccio and from umami Salmon Tartare, to crisp Scallop Crudo Panipuri. Signature gems like the restaurant’s Lamb Baklava and Lebanese Tacos are Nicki’s top recommendations to new diners. Groups can foster community at their table with shareable options like the Grilled Whole Sea Bream, Vegetarian Paella, and a Shawarma Platter loaded with beef, chicken, lamb kofta, housemade flatbread, and an array of tantalizing sauces and accompaniments. And don’t forget the brunch menu, accommodating social connection over delicious food from day to night.

Restaurateur Nickie Laborie’s Reyna is a Haven for Mediterranean Cuisine and Women’s Empowerment in NYC

Photo Courtesy: Jahleah Santiago / And Just Like That Cocktail, Greek Fries and Scallop Crudo Pani Puri

The gorgeous bar, adorned overhead with pink feathers and warm lighting, offers a drink menu that is a treasure trove of handcrafted cocktails. As with the food menu, each drink selection is a unique adventure waiting to be savored. Delight in options like the King Arthur’s Concubine, a tantalizing mix of Diablada Pisco, Chinola passion fruit liqueur, tarragon syrup, tangerine juice, lemon juice, persimmon bitters, and topped off with a tarragon sprig and passion fruit pearls. For a kick, order The French Pornstar, a cheeky concoction of vodka, passion fruit, vanilla, lime, and a shot of champagne. The Champagne and Sparkling options include Lafayette 1777 Blancs De Blancs Grande Réserve and Moet & Chandon Brut Rosé, ready to add some sparkle to your night. Plus, an extensive selection of white wines, rosé, and reds from all around the world, along with premium beers like Hitachino Nest White Ale and Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale. Alcohol-free options are made with an arsenal of fresh fruit juices and there is talk of an upcoming mocktail collection that is soon to be revealed. So, whether you’re in the mood for a classy cocktail, or just want to kick back with a cold one, Nicki makes sure Reyna is top of mind.

From her career beginnings as the General Manager of Bamboo Bernies in St. Maarten, to her reputable role as the founder of Toronto’s renowned View the VIBE Magazine, Laborie’s path has been marked by a relentless pursuit of excellence and a dedication to thinking outside of the box. Since the 2016 inception of Bar Reyna, the flagship establishment of Reyna Hospitality Group, she has expanded her culinary empire, expanding with Reyna at Assembly Chefs Hall in 2017 and Reyna on King in 2019, solidifying her status as a culinary force to be reckoned with. Still, the ambition hasn’t slowed down with Nicki strengthening her mission at Reyna even further, “I feel like there’s more to what we’re doing than just a restaurant. It’s been eight and a half years since I started Reyna, and this year for the first time I proudly have an Executive Chef who is female, and my Operations and Creative Director, Natasha Pomnikow, has been with me for seven years. She started as a hostess and she’s now my right arm. My management is all female right now and I want to make it a mission to empower females to stay in hospitality and give them a space to grow. I think that’s a really strong direction for me and the future of Reyna.”


Published By: Aize Perez

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