Out of the Kitchen
After strolling through the Trenton Market amidst all the local farm bounty, there is no better place to satisfy your vegan craving than Lady and the Shallot, a plant-based eatery that is 100% vegan, gluten and nut free.
Co-owners Francesca Avitto and Kate Wnek have taken vegan to new heights with their passion for healthy eating. Their delightful café Lady and the Shallot pays homage to their cat Lady.
Francesca Avitto grew up in an Italian household where cooking was a daily ritual. She went on to become a hairdresser and then an event planner in the Tri-State area. Kate taught elementary school and worked for Teresa’s Trattoria in Princeton among other culinary establishments. Francesca said Kate was “born to cook.” The two found love on a dating app and began cooking for friends. This led to requests for dinner parties and then becoming private chefs.
They made a connection with a bakery at the Trenton Market and when the space across from the bakery became available, they decided to open Lady and the Shallot in 2018. They were married on the one-year anniversary of Lady and the Shallot by Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora.
When COVID hit they were able to continue their business. Francesca said their customers “are amazing human beings” who supported them by buying gift certificates online and then getting take-out.
They are no strangers to healthy eating and providing clean food to their customers. Francesca became a vegetarian at the age of 17 after she watched a documentary on the dairy industry’s practices. Her mom was a cancer survivor and she saw firsthand the importance of a clean diet.
When they planned the menu for Lady and the Shallot they sent out a survey to their customers. Putting their hearts into the menu they have created a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. One of their customer favorites are the “Street Spuds,” their version of air-fried potatoes with toppings such as avocados, lemon capers and spicy chickpeas.
Their signature dish is the “Rainbow” which is served as a taco, a spud topping or a dish alone. With avocado, sweet corn, tomatoes, red cabbage, roasted chickpeas and lemon caper aioli, it earns its “Rainbow” name for all the colors in the dish.
Being in a farmers’ market allows them to take advantage of the fresh seasonal produce for a true farm- to-table experience. Fresh Jersey tomatoes, sweet corn, jalapenos and more are sourced from local farmers.
Francesca and Kate are happiest being creative and treating their employees as family. Their cooking is not only about the ingredients but about creating a texture. Francesca’s secret ingredient is adding lemon zest to her dishes.
As members of the LGBTQ community they know firsthand the struggles of growing up and coming out. They want Lady and the Shallot to be a safe space for LGBTQ youth. LGBTQ youth are welcome to come and sit and talk, gaining insights and mentorship. Francesca said it’s a place where “they can be safe to be who they are.” Lady and the Shallot has been at Trenton Pride and this year at Princeton Pride.
Their advice to operating a small business is summed up in one word, “passion.” It is their passion that comes through in all they do and the warm, embracing environment they have created for the community.
Lady and the Shallot does catering and serves Sunday Brunch from 10-2 on Sundays at their Trenton Market location.