Accessibility is a centerpiece at East Harlem restaurant

Restaurateur George Gallego and his partners just opened Contento in East Harlem. His dream was to offer a dining experience accessible to everyone, so he designed it that way. 

"The entire space is wheelchair-accessible, as you can see," he said. "When we built out the bar, we made a portion of the bar accessible whether they are in a manual chair or power, and the door is open [for] wider chairs than normal." 

Gallego knows from personal experience how difficult it can be navigating New York City streets and businesses in a wheelchair. His partner Yannick Benjamin, who also uses a wheelchair, is the sommelier at Contento. 

"We wanted to be welcoming [to] everyone — not just a segment of society, which is oftentimes what happens to Yannick and I," Gallego said. "We oftentimes feel excluded." 

The restaurant doesn't only cater to people with disabilities; everyone is welcome — and that is the point.

"We wanted this space to be unique in that sense everyone is and they can utilize every inch of the space here." 

Gallego and his partners were originally planning to open this restaurant in East Harlem before the pandemic. The delay allowed them to hone their ideas, testing out this space with diners who have all kinds of disabilities

The menu features international dishes. It also has a QR code so that people with visual impairments can scan the code with a smartphone to have the menu read aloud. 

While opening any restaurant in New York City is a high-risk venture, Gallego and his team are up for the challenge. He chose this site in East Harlem because it's also near his home. He hopes everyone who dines here feels contento, which is Spanish for "happiness." 

Contento | 88 E. 111 St., New York, N.Y. 10029 | 646-410-0111 | |

Several patrons sit at tables in an outdoor seating area along a sidewalk in East Harlem; one patron in a wheelchair is seen from behind; a pothos plant hangs in the foreground

The outdoor dining area at Contento in East Harlem. (FOX 5 NY Photo)