When owner of , Dan Richer greeted me on Tuesday it was with a bowl of soup. Now, I won’t be greeted any other way.
We sat down over locally grown butternut squash soup with bread Dan made earlier that day to discuss the progression of his restaurant over the past few years. The restaurant has evolved from a traditional pizzeria to an osteria and pizzeria dedicated to making food that is in season and locally grown.
We’ve all heard the term “locavore” and — before you groan — don’t let hipster jargon turn you off to what’s at the heart of that word. You are eating fresh food from a local source.
Anyone who has eaten a locally grown tomato can attest that eating locally is better for all involved; the farmer, the restaurant and the customer. They all benefit from this, in Dan’s words, “symbiotic relationship.” The farmer gets paid for providing a quality product, the restaurant gets the freshest local produce, and the customer reaps the delicious results.
Dan broke down this small circle of life over a beet salad topped with field greens and goat cheese. The beet was from a farm in southern New Jersey and the field greens were from Garden State Urban Farms in Orange. Clearly, Dan is not kidding about the local part.
He went on to explain that Zone 7 is a company run by Mikey Arazza that acts as a liaison between farms and restaurants in New Jersey. What started out as just “this guy Mikey” and a borrowed truck has turned into a large operation with 20 -25 farms and restaurants partnering to collaborate on next season’s menus.
Recently, Dan and his business partner Fred Shandler drove to Princeton to attend a meeting where all the restaurant and farm operators who work with Zone 7 had lunch and discussed the next growing season.
Garden State Urban Farms, a not-for-profit farm located in Orange, New Jersey and run by Maplewood resident Lorraine Gibbons, is the other supplier of produce. The farm provides fresh, local produce to urban communities in the area. Dan described in detail the dynamics of GSUF and how local restaurants like Arturo’s are integral to the farm’s goal of providing fresh produce for cheap to places like Beth Israel Hospital in Newark.
“With restaurants like Gramercy Tavern and Arturo’s buying produce from her, she can then provide produce to those people in those urban areas at cost.” He continued, “We’re getting this incredible lettuce and we’re giving people jobs … plus the rest of the greenhouse is set up for that community to have fresh produce.”
For Dan Richer, eating local is not just a trend; it is a chance for social mobility, for health, and for economic opportunity.
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