Marita Lynn describes her native country’s cuisine as a melting pot of international influences. (Click to enlarge)


Rcsm2_010508Upscale fish and Chinese; affordable Vietnamese; gluten-free pizza: Red Bank’s ever-expanding menu is about to make room for yet another type of cuisine not seen here recently, if ever.

Caterer Marita Lynn of Aberdeen plans to open a Peruvian restaurant called Runa sometime next month in the Monmouth Street space recently vacated by the Eurasian Eatery.

In the language of Peru’s indigenous Quechuas, Runa means ‘people,’ Lynn tells redbankgreen. But Runa’s menu, like the food of modern Peru, is transnational, she said.

Built around aji chili peppers and “4,000 varieties of potatoes,” Peruvian food incorporates ingredients of Andean, Italian, African, French, Japanese and Chinese dishes, reflecting the melting pot that her native country is, said Lynn.

“There’s a lot of variety in the ingredients,” she said, noting that her home city of Lima has a large Chinatown section, and that a Peruvian of Japanese descent, Alberto Fujimori, was once the country’s president.

“Everything is eco-friendly and mostly organic,” she said. “It’s a mixture of flavors. It makes the food unique.”

Runa, she said, will feature meat, poultry and fish dishes as well as vegetarian and gluten-free offerings. “I love the quinoa,” she said of the versatile grain.

Lynn, 43, emigrated to the United States 21 years ago and spent 12 years as an airline industry budget analyst before deciding to pursue her love of cooking full-time. She earned a degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York and trained at Jean Georges and Restaurant Daniel before taking a job as a line cook at the Bernards Inn in Bernardsville.

Pregnant with her second child, she decided to go out on her own in 2004, launching Catering by Marita, a business she rebranded as Marita Lynn Catering and reoriented as “more organic” than her prior offerings last year.

Runa is Lynn’s first attempt at running her own restaurant. Located across Monmouth Street from the Count Basie Theatre, the BYOB will feature 50 seats and a casual atmosphere conducive to pre-show dining.

Lynn said dinner entrees would be priced in the $15-to-$25 range. She hopes to open by mid-August.