What do woodfired pizza, vegan comfort foods and Mediterranean cuisine (with a Middle Eastern flair) all have in common?
They are three of Hope and Main’s new food businesses, or “food babies” as I like to think of them, that they got their start in the middle of COVID-19. And in case you were hunkering down in a closet-sized apartment, wrapped in rolls of toilet paper, baking no-knead bread every night, I’m here to tell you that Basil & Bunny, W’s Mobile Woodfired Pizza and Mosaic Table are worth venturing out for — creative, delicious, soul-nourishing foods to vary your takeout routine.
Lyslie Medeiros and her husband, Mathiew, were longtime vegetarians, due to health reasons and a fear of Mad Cow disease, but six years ago they began to see the benefits of switching to a completely plant-based diet. In fall 2019, the couple “took a leap of faith” and left their 15-year industry careers to start a vegan food truck. “It was always that dream we had,” Lyslie said. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if we owned our own place someday? We’d be so happy.’”
Their dream began perfectly: Rhode Island VegFest was a success and they booked events for 2020, but then COVID wiped their plans. Thankfully, Mathiew’s background in marketing and Lyslie’s eye for aesthetics allowed them to quickly pivot to putting everything online. They joined Hope and Main, parked their trailer and stayed afloat during the dark days of COVID. “We never gave up!” Lyslie said.
Hardly! Over the summer, they created a recipe for clam cakes with oyster mushrooms and kelp seasoning that was a huge hit. The “Bunny Mac” became a bestseller, as their take on a Big Mac, with two housemade bean and mushroom patties, pickles from Backyard Foods Company, lettuce, grilled onions, vegan cheddar cheese and fancy sauce on a double-decker bun. And for anyone with a sweet tooth, their “MMMBop-Tarts” are like childhood memories living in technicolor, with a rotation of flavors, such as Black Forest: a chocolate cherry pop-tart with vanilla icing and a cherry chocolate drizzle; or Ginger Pear, a pear filled pop-tart with ginger icing and strudel topping.
“Being vegan was a really great challenge for me because I still wanted to create my favorite comfort foods. Just because you’re going vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up the foods you love.”
You can find them, and all of your favorite comfort foods, at Hope and Main’s winter markets or Proclamation Brewery, with pop-up details posted on Instagram: @basilandbunny
W’s Mobile Wood Fired Pizza
“I knew going to [Johnson and Wales University] that I wanted my own business,” said Will Fritz, the owner of W’s Mobile Wood Fired Pizza. “But I figured I’d graduate and work for someone else while I figured out what I was going to do.” As a May 2020 graduate of JWU, the job market — especially in the restaurant industry — wasn’t exactly booming. So he landed a gig at Greenwich Wood Products.
The owner there, Mike Hendershot, happened to have a pizza oven sitting on a trailer. He’d purchased it 10 years ago, but it wasn’t being used. So they teamed up and, as Will said, “got legitimate.”
The folks at Hope and Main helped with licensing and insurance, and by summer they were selling pizzas at Shewatuck Farm in Exeter. “Being in a field, spaced out, felt safe for people, and I think it helped our business. The first day we sold 50 pizzas and ran out of everything,” said Will. Soon they were selling 120 pizzas in 4 to 5 hours. Their social media grew, breweries starting contacting them and they appeared at outdoor markets.
“Our pizzas are $15, and all toppings are available all the time. It allows people to be creative while maintaining a flat price,” Will explained. They buy their dough from Pizza Gourmet in Central Falls, but they make their own sauces, slice veggies and meat by hand. They’ve also been known to use the oven to bake cookies and stuffies.
“Normally, pizzas bake at 500 degrees Fahrenheit, but a wood oven gets up to 700-900 degrees, so it cooks in about two minutes. The fire and smokiness create a different flavor in the crust.” And at $2/slice, I can personally attest to trying one of each of the pizza specials.
They’ll be at Tilted Barn in Exeter this December, and they’re offering 10% discounts on private events for anyone who books before the new year. You can also find them at Hope and Main’s Meet Your Maker event on December 22, and on Instagram: @wswoodfiredpizza
Imagine a mosaic: small bits of glass or ceramic, each with a different energy, a different color, coming together to form a single masterpiece, a beautiful picture. This is what Anat Sagi had in mind when she named her business: a variety of different flavors and different people, coming together to form a beautiful experience.
“Through food and small details, I want to create an environment, a bubble of respite,” Anat said. “I grew up in an Israeli home where dining together and eating together was always an ‘event.’ The atmosphere was built around cooking together and being together, and right now people need a little bit of light in their life. Through food and food experiences, you can be transported to a different place.”
An experience curator. That’s really what drives Anat. “I never realized how much I loved cooking, or how much other people appreciated it,” she said, until COVID hit. “I thought … could I do this for a living?”
She catered a few small weddings, and that level of intimacy is her ideal. For this reason, she developed A Restaurant Experience at Home dinner kit: a three-course meal, locally made candles, placemats, plates, bottle of wine, a music playlist. “I don’t want to open a restaurant,” she says, “but I do want to create these experiences.”
And Hope and Main was really helpful throughout the process. “I want to give them a huge shout-out because they are rock stars,” Anat said. “I didn’t realize how much of a community you get, let alone their willingness to help every step of the way.” She also praises the other businesses with whom she shares a kitchen, like Secrets in the Kitchen and Newport Salt. They’ll be featured in the dinner kits, too. “There’s so much joy from uplifting each other. If one wins, we all win.”
There are a few pick-up locations for Mosaic offerings aside from Hope and Main, including Urban Greens in Providence and Campus Fine Wines, who have collaborated with Mosaic Table to offer wine pairings for your meal. Follow her on Instagram: @themosaictable and order a Restaurant Experience at Home kit: themosaictable.com