September 26, 2018

Popular Lady and the Shallot Lunch Eatery Offers Wide Variety of Plant-Based Dishes

PLANT-BASED SPECIALTIES: “We felt so much better after we began our plant-based diet that we wanted to share what we had discovered and experienced. We wanted to provide healthier food for others.” Francesca Avitto (left) and Kate Wnek are chef-owners of Lady and the Shallot, the popular new lunch eatery in the Trenton Farmers Market.

By Jean Stratton

It is not named for the famous poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson!

As the owners are quick to explain, it is a fun name for a new lunch eatery focusing on a healthy plant-based cuisine.

“We have tried to make healthy food into fun food,” point out Francesca Avitto and Kate Wnek, chef-owners of Lady and the Shallot.

Located in the Trenton Farmers Market at 960 Spruce Street in Lawrence Township, it opened in May to rave reviews, which have continued as increasing numbers of customers enjoy the variety of tasty lunch-time dishes.

“The food is so fresh, and it is really nice to have this eating option at the Market. Avocado toast is big enough for a second meal at home,” reports Princeton resident Beth Freda, who recently had a lunch date there with her daughter Rebecca Freda.

“The caramelized shallot pizza was amazing,” adds Rebecca. “I really enjoyed how friendly everyone is, and the food tasted even better knowing that Lady and the Shallot is environmentally conscious and the food packaging is recyclable.”

“The Farmers Market is a perfect place for us,” say the owners. “We can get wonderful produce here. 95 percent of our produce comes from the Market. This is the epitome of farm-to-table.

“We love the creativity of preparing everything. We are making new creations all the time.”

Both Avitto and Wnek have a history in the food industry, but they also had successful careers in other fields before opening Lady and the Shallot.

“I grew up in my mother’s Italian kitchen,” says Avitto, with a smile. In addition, she worked as a hair stylist in New York City for 20 years, and also co-funded a collaborative arts studio/event space. Her focus on the visual is clearly reflected in the extremely attractive and colorful presentation of all the Lady and the Shallot’s lunch specialties.

Wnek’s background is equally diverse, yet also with a focus on food. Her family was involved in the food industry, and she worked in multiple culinary environments, including restaurants and country clubs in the Princeton area. In addition, she received a degree in broadcast journalism and digital media, and then went on to pursue a career as an elementary school teacher for 12 years.

“During the time I was teaching, I became aware of food allergies affecting the kids,” she notes. An allergy-free environment and focus is an important part of Lady and the Shallot.

Food became foremost again for Wnek and Avitto when they established a catering business, serving the Princeton area and beyond. “We prepared small intimate dinners in people’s homes,” they explain. “It was very personalized. We’d talk with the customers about what they’d like to have, and then prepare a menu.”

After two years, they decided to change direction, although with food still the focus.

“We saw a disturbing movie on the meat industry about a year ago, and after that we chose to change to a healthier vegetarian diet,” notes Avitto. “We both felt much better, much healthier.”

Wanting to share their experience with others, they determined to open their vegan/vegetarian eatery, offering both lunch and take-out. As Wnek points out, it “was a way to combine our passion for food and a mindful, ethical way to sustain a healthier life using whole foods and plant-based options. It is also allergy-free, with no nuts or gluten.

“We are set apart by our vegan/vegetarian focus, and that we are completely allergy-free, even to our salt and pepper. We get our bread from an allergy-safe company in the Midwest. There is really no one in the area like us.”

“We are also trying very hard to make it affordable,” adds Avitto. “So often healthier food is more expensive, and many people can’t afford it. We also offer very generous portions.”

A wide variety of salads, sandwiches, flatbreads, and tacos are on the menu, and they are all favorites with the diners.

“The most popular item right now is The Rainbow taco,” report the owners. “It includes three tacos with smashed avocado as the base, fresh roasted corn, chickpeas, chopped tomatoes, crunchy purple cabbage, and lemon caper aioli.”

Another specialty is the Mushroom Cap, with roasted portobello, spicy arugula, roasted red pepper, caramelized shallots, and balsamic spread.

Avocado Toast, including The California and the Curry Toast, are very popular, as are The Sweet Shallot and The Italian flatbreads.

“We have a unique Greek Salad, with deep greens, red onion, cukes, fresh dill, handcrafted lemon hummus, tabouli, and Greek dressing,” says Wnek. “There is also The Market Salad with New Jersey tomatoes, roasted corn, fresh lettuce, cukes, avocado, crisp radish, and sweet balsamic.”

Lady and the Shallot will be open year-round, and the fall and winter menu will feature weekly specials, such as baked apples, butternut squash soup, and an over-stuffed sweet potato.

“These are some fun plant-based takes on classic comfort foods!“ points out Avitto. “We will also be creating specials featuring popular fall and winter produce that the Market’s farmers will have available.”

Beverages include assorted fruit-infused waters and infused teas every day. Customer favorites are orange-infused water, and green tea infused with ginger, mint, and cucumber.

Items are reasonably priced, including The Rainbow taco at $5.95, flatbreads and sandwiches at $7.95, Avocado Toast and salads from $6.95.

Avitto and Wnek are enjoying the interaction with all their customers and the opportunity to introduce them to the benefits of a plant-based diet.

“Our customers are all ages and background. Kids love our food, and so do older people. For younger people, healthy eating has become more of a lifestyle. The customers are so wide-spread. We have some who are vegan and vegetarian, and others who eat meat. They all just love our healthy, delicious food.”

The owners are delighted with the enthusiastic response, which just seems to increase every week.

“We’ve had customers coming in from day one, and there are lots of regulars already. We actually have people who come in every day. And we hear their stories every day. They are definitely interested in eating healthier food. Studies have shown that a vegan/vegetarian diet may lower cholesterol and high blood pressure.

“We feel so lucky that we have been able to do this. People are so pleased that we are here; it has exceeded our expectations. We are busy all day, every day!

“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to make people happy every day for a living. How many people get to love what they do!”

Lady and the Shallot is open Wednesday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday and Friday 11 to 4, Saturday 10 to 4. (347) 342-2964. Website: