Baristanet Profile: Niria Leyva-Gutierrez

Name: Niria Leyva-Gutierrez

Where do you live? Frog Hollow, Montclair, just around the corner from the High School, which means my house turns into a bustling lunch hangout for my son and his friends several times during the week. I love my neighborhood!

When did you move there? Moved to a rental on Watchung Avenue in 2006 and moved to our own home in our current location in 2015.

Where did you grow up? I moved to Tampa when I was 5 years old and lived there until I was 16 when my parents moved us back north to NJ.

How do you make a living? OR What is your everyday passion? I am a full-time Art History professor, and when I’m not at the university, I am a Pilates instructor at IM=X in Clifton, NJ.

Coffee, tea or … ? One cup of Cuban café con leche in the morning made by my husband John, who has the patience to make the perfect cup – hot but not scalding, ideal milk/espresso ratio, and just enough froth. After that, herbal teas for the rest of the day.

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend day? Perfect café con leche (see above) when I wake up; Pilates in the morning; breakfast with the family at home (they’ll eat pancakes and I will eat poached eggs with capers and toast); soccer tournament somewhere exciting where the whole family can go (not Western NJ, sorry) and we can discover new towns/cities, art and other things to do; drinks with John and dinner somewhere new and exciting.  Bonus if good friends can join in somewhere in there.

What’s your favorite local restaurant? I like The Corner, Marcel, and Layers of Flavor for Breakfast. I like the vibe and the oysters at Halcyon’s, Tierney’s for burgers and Dai-Kichi for sushi. This is a tough question and I’m not sufficiently hungry to answer, but Montclair is a great place to find good food.

What’s on your nightstand? Water bottle, hand cream, a stack of New Yorkers, The Art Bulletins, HGTV magazines I haven’t looked at yet, reading glasses, a vase that belonged to my grandmother, a photo of John and me, Colin Dickey’s Afterlives of the Saints, Kirk Wallace Johnson’s The Feather Thief; Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo Da Vinci, and Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls, which I’ve just started to read.

What are you listening to? Usually my 16-year-old or 11-year-old sons are deejaying in the car, so lots of rap and whatever else is current.  John deejays at night or when he is driving, so anything is possible, but usually jazz or Latin music.  I listen to classical music while I write lectures and 80s and 90s dance music when I’m feeling nostalgic.  On my long trips to work, sadly, I listen to the news.  I should stop that – it’s definitely not good for the soul!

What are your current indulgences? After years of drinking mostly Spanish wines, I’ve switched to French reds and am enjoying discovering what I like from this region. I also have an obsession with hand creams and soaps and am loving A la Maison Rosemary Mint Soap with Olive and Argan Oils and A la Maison’s Fresh Sea Salt Body Butter Soufflé and hand cream. And Pilates always feels good!

What talent you would most like to have? I really wish I could sing. It’s portable and brings so much pleasure, and I am so horrible at it.  It’s depressing, actually.

What’s the worst-kept (or best-kept!) secret about Montclair? Judging by the winding lines on Saturday morning, it’s not a total secret, but Bagels Abroad on Valley Road is unstoppable! It’s not just the bagels, it’s their unbelievable efficiency, their great customer service, their patience with every high schooler who comes in, and the fact that I see half of Montclair when I’m there.  Oh, and it’s around the corner from where I live.

What do you hope they say about you at your funeral? She is missed and here’s why…


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