On College Hill, a new restaurant business model is making waves within the community, with the arrival of the Flatbread Company. Rather than focus so heavily on local food sources, this new age pizza place focuses on financially enhancing its community through charitable donations.
“We’re constantly looking for people who have non-profits,” says owner Jim Harrison. “They can get an application online or in the restaurant. [Currently] we’ve got them booked up into March. Farm Fresh Rhode Island is coming in, and the Providence Library, and the Rhode Island Bike Coalition.”
After the application process, Flatbread Company assigns the non-profit to an upcoming Tuesday, when the company will donate to them $3.50 of every large pizza sold from 5-9pm. This lets the company benefit approximately four non-profits per month, depending on that month’s number of Tuesdays.
“The money that people spend, we put it back into the community. We do the benefit nights and an awful lot of donations. Sometimes people come in and ask for 50 pizzas for a blood drive. We do it. It’s genuine. It’s a good concept and works.”
Besides serving up donations, Flatbread Company offers a plethora of pizza choices, many of which are made with local ingredients. One of Harrison’s favorites is the Punctuated Equilibrium, featuring Kalamata olives, organic rosemary, red onions, garlic oil, goat cheese, mozzarella and fire-roasted red pepper, all on the company’s flagship flatbread crust.
“The pizzas are built in these giant clay ovens and cooked at 800 degrees, and we use as local and organic ingredients as we can get.” Which actually results in some interesting scenarios, such as Harrison’s current lack of local goat cheese because “[the goats are] in the process of having babies, so they don’t have the milk right now. We’re waiting.”
But Harrison’s love of local has its benefits, too: of the 20 beers on draft, 16 are from the Providence area and Flatbread’s delivery services go through Dash.
“We really try to hire people from the community and put people back to work,” says Harrison, adding that “whatever this restaurant will be, it’s up to the people of Providence and Rhode Island.” 161 Cushing St. 273-2737, www.flatbreadcompany.com.
Over the river and through downtown, within the renovated Arcade now lies the recently opened Rogue Island Local Kitchen & Bar, a cleverly named restaurant that specializes in what Executive Chef Bobby Will calls “hyper local” dishes. Unlike the traditional model of localized food, the hyper local concept, as Will describes, is a company or restaurant that sources primarily within the confines of its home state.
“We want to provide guests with the freshest, most local produce possible,” says Will. “Instead of stressing something in season elsewhere, we want to buy local products and use them.”
As the most obvious evolutionary step in the farm-to-fork movement, hyper local is a pursuit of passion that comes with inherent issues - all of which Rogue Island tackles with panache.
For example: Rhode Island’s limited seasonal selection creates menu instability.
Solution: “With hyper seasonal, the menu changes a lot,” says Will, adding that Rogue Island will be “offering a highly seasonal menu based on what’s available from farmers.” And Will sees the instability as an opportunity to keep customers interested, because “it will change so frequently that people won’t get bored.”
Next: Buying local means higher menu costs.
Solution: “People keep referring to us as a cross between Farmstead and Gracie’s, in style,” says Will, in reference to his commitment to balancing ingredient quality with affordability. “Breakfast and lunch are more casual and reasonably priced, while dinner is upscale.”
Lastly: Rhode Island farmers cannot produce everything a hyper local restaurants needs to operate.
Solution: “Certain things like salt and olive oil, you can’t find around here. But we’ve estimated that about 80% [of the menu] is coming from RI. We’re reflecting a lot of this into our cocktails and beer, too.” What Will absolutely cannot find in Rhode Island, though, he will find elsewhere. But that’s a last resort.
Rogue Island currently has its sights set on future developments to support their hyper local model, including a Rogue Island farm dedicated to the restaurant’s needs. Only time will tell if their model allows for such developments. 65 Weybosset St. 831-3733.