PROVIDENCE – A new restaurant has opened on Federal Hill in Providence, just in time for the return of Al fresco dining along Atwells Avenue.
PiANTA, which means “plant” in Italian, is a new spot at the corner of Piedmont Street. And while the fact that a large portion of its menu consists of Italian fare is not a surprise — after all, it is Federal Hill — some may be curious to learn that it offers totally plant-based cuisine.
PiANTA had its grand opening May 4, but the official ribbon-cutting was held May 12, with Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and members of the Federal Hill Commerce Association joining owner/executive chef Michelle Politano and her staff.
”This is fabulous,” said Armando Bisceglia, chair of the association and owner of Bacco Vino & Contorni on Federal Hill, as he looked around the open and modern 50-seat restaurant (with seating for 20 more outside). “The more dining experiences, the better. Vegan food today is no different than eating Italian or Chinese or another type of food.”
Elorza said that while his diet isn’t plant-based, he is lactose-intolerant, so he is looking forward to eating dairy-free food at PiANTA.
”I was born and raised in Providence, and I always knew that this is the place to get Italian food,” he said. “And it’s only expanding. It’s great to see the growth in the diversity of foods here.”
Politano said she is “thrilled” to be a part of that growth and that her journey into the world of restaurant ownership is at the same time scary and invigorating.
The 32-year-old Canton, Mass., native was a regional sales manager for a luxury travel brand (specializing in trips to Italy) when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and she was laid off. It was then that Politano decided — with encouragement from her uncle and other family members — to pursue her passion for cooking and “reroute” into the food industry.
She began taking small-scale catering gigs and the feedback she received was so positive that she decided to sell her house on Boston’s South Shore and take the equity from it to launch a takeout and delivery business out of a food hub kitchen on Bath Street in Providence in March 2021.
With a steady stream of new and repeat customers who couldn’t get enough of her plant-based fare like steak and cheese egg rolls with chipotle aioli (“They’d say ‘there’s no way this is vegan’ and I’d say ‘you bet your butt it is’”), loaded Italian deli sandwich (now called Italian chicken cutlet sandwich), zucchini fritters, and sumptuous desserts, Politano said she knew it was time to expand and open her own brick-and-mortar space.
With many restaurant owners bemoaning the lack of adequate help, Politano said she feels “very fortunate” to have an “amazing [and] dedicated staff that is like family.”
Traffic has been steady at PiANTA, she said, with not only plant-based diners, but with meat eaters and those with food allergies. In addition to the menu being entirely vegan, it is also kosher, and many items are gluten-free and nut-free.
”We try to make our food approachable so people aren’t intimidated to try it … and it is also just really good,” said Politano, who went plant-based about three years ago.
”At first it was for health reasons, but then I became more comfortable opening my eyes to the practices behind animal welfare and how [animal-based food] gets from the farm to the grocery store shelf,” she said. “In watching the documentaries and reading things to inform myself, I was like ‘whoa, this is way more than a health decision.’ When you look at the benefits to the body, the practices that are used [on animals] and what it means to them, and the sustainability of the earth, it’s like how can you have all of that information and go back to the way you were? I couldn’t.”