All photos by Michael Tulipan unless otherwise noted

On paper, Maite shouldn’t work. Italian, Colombian and Basque cuisine? Intricate pasta dishes alongside burgers and empanadas? The former bodega turned restaurant quietly opened last March without much fanfare, but has steadily risen the ranks in the past year. Despite its contradictions, Maite will surprise you and steal your heart in the process.

Co-owners Ella Schmidt and Kano Mitchell are the soul and brains behind Maite. On this particular chilly weekday evening, Schmidt worked her magic in the open kitchen while Mitchell ran the front of house. The chef, born in Colombia to a Basque mother and German father, is an alum of such NYC dining institutions such as Craft, Al Di La and Il Buco. Her multicultural background in addition to her restaurant and personal chef experience influences much of the cooking at Maite.

The rustic space, designed and largely built by Schmidt and Mitchell, features items found on Bushwick streets (the bathroom door), quirky touches (vintage camera sconces), as well as personal items such as photos of the partners’ mothers and traditional black clay cookware brought back from Colombia.

Chef-owner Ella Schmidt

Photo by Lauren Pascarella

You won’t find menus at Maite except for a single large chalkboard menu listed with the day’s offerings. Neither will you find dishes listed under “starters” or “mains.” Everything on the menu is meant to mix and match, and share. Ella’s trifecta of influences – Basque, Italian and Colombian – are displayed in her expertly-crafted dishes, like an unctuous burrata cheese atop a slice of rustic toast surrounded by a rich, Basque-inflected squid ink sauce.

A staple in Colombian cuisine, Ella’s arepa is topped with a fried duck egg and filled with tangy melted gouda in a manteca, a Spanish sauce made from butter, lard and smoked paprika.

Not to be missed are her mind-numbingly good pastas. A favorite since she opened the restaurant, don’t miss the homemade gnocchi filled with taleggio and served with mushrooms and sage. Pillows of heaven.

Equally delicious was the Maltagliati, a hand torn pasta served with a spicy rabbit ragu.

Perhaps the most popular menu item and favorite is Schmidt’s signature burger. Beefy, savory and oh-so soft, her burger is topped with a soft-boiled egg that’s been lightly battered and fried, and drips down your fingers as you squish and bite. In a city of great burgers, this one ranks among the best.

Drinks at Maite are equally fun and personal. You’ll find a short list of craft cocktails, including the ‘Kiko’, made with Prosecco and pickled Bourbon grapes. (Careful: those grapes pack a punch!)

Another winner was the ‘Brooklyn Bound,’ made with Vida mezcal, grapefruit and honey harvested on the rooftop of Ella’s neighbor.

You could come to Maite for a burger and beer and leave completely satisfied. But you’d be remiss in not trying Ella’s other wildly creative dishes and drinks. With the recent success of their New Years Day brunch, Ella and Kano plan on adding Sunday brunch on a regular basis, providing the perfect reason to get up early and chow down on arepas.

Like the much-lauded Faro, Maite is easily a destination restaurant. We’re so glad we don’t have to travel far.

159 Central Ave, Bushwick. Sunday & Tuesday 5pm – 10pm, Wednesday – Saturday 5pm – 11pm, Closed Mondays. Sunday brunch to come in early 2016.