Rhode Island’s Top 5 Women in Food + Wine

Thursday, November 29, 2012


The realm of food professional used to be a mostly male endeavor. Now, we all know this is just plain wrong. Today, we find incredible women dotting the culinary landscape nationwide. In our little corner of the world, we found an impressive array of talented women helping to make our state a culinary hotspot.


Ellen Slattery, Gracie's, Providence

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Ellen Slattery surrounded by her team at Gracie's in Providence.

It's been quite a long time that we have been enjoying the hospitality of Ellen Slattery. Her incredible restaurant, Gracie's, is one of the longest-running success stories since it occupied a spot on Federal Hill. You knew right away that Gracie's was different from the rest of The Hill and it was because of Ellen. Her deft touch at making people feel welcomed and taken care of is legendary... as is her gift at picking chefs. Perhaps no restaurant in our area has had a higher profile recent chef-lineage as Gracie's. In a row she has had Champe Speidel, now of Persimmon, Joe Hafner, whom we miss since he moved out West, and Matthew Varga. Her latest adventure is a retail bakery with her female pastry chefs. The pictures of the French macarons alone have us salivating. 194 Washington St. 272-7811, www.graciesprovidence.com


Michele Deluca-Verlay, La Maison de Coco, Newport

When you combine passion with chocolate, there isn't much that can go wrong. About 14 years ago Michele Deluca-Verlay began to combine her two passions: tea and chocolate. Boy are we happy that she did. There is no other spot in Newport that we find as "Parisian" as Michele's shop. Quaint sidewalk tables and an inside counter are usually bustling with smiling patrons enjoying crepes, cafe and her incredible truffles. These babies are worth a road trip. Deluca-Verlay takes the subtle flavors of tea like plum oolong and the citrus flavor from Earl Gray, bergamot, and infuses them into local cream and the highest quality chocolate. You are left with a sublime combination of flavor that is at once familiar and unique. She uses local farms and dairies when possible for the top notch ingredients she desires. Imagine a hot chocolate that is made with the flavored ganache on this chilly morning and get to Newport! 28 Bellevue Ave. 845-2626, www.lamaisondecoco.com


Angie Armenise, Blackie's Bull Dog Tavern, Smithfield

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Angie Armenise and Jeanine Iannuchi toast the good life (and bar food) at Blackie's Bull Dog in Smithfield.

We first fell in lust with chef Angie Armenise when she was at the range at Twist on Angell. It didn't take long as a simple bucket of popcorn was transformed by chipotle and lime to elevate it past what was expected. We were similarly impressed with the rest of her flavors. A few years, and many awards, later and we are still enjoying her food. Today, she is co-owner--along with another woman, Jeanine Iannuchi--of Blackie's Bull Dog in Smithfield. So many times we run into places trying to be what they are not, that it is refreshing to find Blackie's. We often lament when great bars don't have great bar food. Why try for 5-star cuisine? Why not have the best and most creative bar food around? That's what Chef Armenise has done. Just about everything we tried was well executed, especially the baby meatloaf. We will be going back soon! 181 George Washington Highway, 231-4777, www.blackiesbulldogtavern.com


Jessica Norris-Granatiero, The Savory Grape, East Greenwich

One of our favorite wine shops around the holidays is the Savory Grape. We find the combination of interesting wine, knowledgeable staff and good prices to make gift shopping easy. The other thing we love is co-owner and wine nut, Jessica Norris-Granatiero. Her passion is evident from the time you walk through the doors. These wines are interesting. Anyone can slap some bottles on a shelf and open a shop, but to fill your shelves with affordable, uncommon wines is the true test of a shop and the Grape passes with flying colors. We all have wine questions, even a oenophile needs help and that's where a shop like this shines.

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Jessica Norris-Granatiero has the key to wine enlightenment at The Savory Grape in East Greenwich. Photo: Scott Indermaur/www.siphotography.com.

Come in and talk with the owners and staff and let them build a relationship with wine for you. Tell them your likes and dislikes and let them guide you on a path to wine enlightenment. Discuss the type of people you are buying for and they will help pick that perfect bottle for that perfect person. 1000 Division Rd. 886-9463, www.thesavorygrape.com
(Photo: Scott Indermaur, www.siphotography.com)

Ellen Loconto, Just Ellen's Catering and Event Planning, Providence

We love to highlight people who have a heart. We are lucky in these parts to have so many people for whom giving back is the first rule of business. One such person is Ellen Loconto of Just Ellen's. We first tried her catering years ago at 729 Hope Street Cafe and more recently at an event for Adoption Rhode Island. We were there supporting this great organization and couldn't believe how good the food was. After some prodding--nobody likes to give up their favorite people except us--we met Ellen and were blown away by her spirit of giving. Now...it's not just about caring, Ellen is good. She is currently the in-house caterer for the Providence Performing Arts Center. So if you've ever been to an event there you tried her stuff without ever knowing! She puts together beautiful display tables and buffets that will leave your guests wowed even before they try the tasty food. You can reach Ellen by phone at 401-419-1614 to set something up. 


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