EDGEWATER, N.J. — What worries Richie Etwaru most is that fast-food-joints will overrun Edgewater.
The deep flavor that he tasted in the Old River Road establishment’s Cuban and Caribbean cuisine for the first time in 2009 can't be replicated, Etwaru said -- and he doesn’t want to leave things to chance.
“We want to preserve that kind of old Edgewater feel,” said Etwaru, who runs Rebecca's with his longtime friends, Avi Premlall and Jesus Abreu. “Someone’s got to buy these old restaurants or else we’ll end up with a bunch of Five Guys burgers and Chipotles everywhere.”
The three friends bought the business in 2014 from the previous owner of 16 years.
Staying true to their promise to maintain the structure and the authenticity of Rebecca's, the owners began renovation on the front and back of the former single-family home last July.
The chef has always remained the same, though.
“We wanted to know if it would withstand without the [former owner],” Etwaru said. “The reputation and the food was good, and it’s been two years and you still can’t get a reservation on a Saturday night.”
Jay Chatr comes regularly to Rebecca’s with his girlfriend to enjoy a self-selected bottle of wine paired with fresh guacamole and camaranoes verdes , spicy shrimp.
“It’s an awesome place,” he said. “It’s excellent, actually. Romantic and small, always packed on the weekends.”
Etwaru loves that the restaurant's popularity was built through word of mouth.
“It’s become a very loyal place,” said Etwaru, pointing to a customer who comes weekly with a large, personalized goblet, and a couple who became regulars after getting engaged there.
“I change many things in the world for a living,” Etwaru said. “This restaurant and its staff was absolutely worth preserving.”