DRACUT — For North Reading resident Deana DeSimone, the idea of opening a restaurant has been a “lifelong project.”
The dream became a reality for her in late November with the opening of Ella May’s Country Kitchen and Bakery on Merrimack Avenue. Located in the space that formerly housed Sophia’s Cafe, the restaurant features a full breakfast menu, a selection of lunch options and made-from-scratch baked goods.
“I really wanted to do something like this when I was in my early 20s,” DeSimone said recently at the new restaurant overlooking the Merrimack River. “But like everybody when you’re in your early 20s, you’re not financially stable, you’re not in a place where you’re really able or educated enough to understand how to run your own business.”
DeSimone learned to cook from her grandmother and great grandmother while growing up in Laconia, N.H. She says they taught her the “real way” of food — not just how to prepare it, but how to properly preserve it and maintain its nutrients. And though her goal of owning a restaurant hasn’t always been in reach, for the past four years or so she’s been making use of the skills the family matriarchs taught her through a personal in-home chef business throughout the North Shore area.
She chose her grandmother, Ella May, as the new restaurant’s namesake.
“I think those are the best ways to learn how to cook anything, is from your elders, because they have had so many years of experience,” she said. “They have so much knowledge on different techniques and different styles.”
Many of the ingredients on the restaurant’s menu are grown fresh in DeSimone’s garden, she said, and what she can’t grow herself, she tries to source from local farms. She also uses personal recipes, some of them handed down through her family for generations. On a recent morning, she was preparing to make a batch of “Cowboy Candy” — candied jalapenos using peppers from her garden — that will be canned and sold in the store.
The menu features a wide range of breakfast items, including omelettes, crepes, waffles, and breakfast sandwiches, as well as a smaller list of lunch offerings. DeSimone keeps the bakery case stocked with a rotating selection of scratch-made pastries, such as mini cheesecakes, cinnamon rolls and banana bread with cheesecake filling.
She’s also working toward earning her nutritionist certificate, and proper nutrition is something she tries to emphasize at Ella May’s, she said. Any of the restaurant’s baked goods can be made low-carb on request — from cheesecakes to cupcakes to brownies — and she also hopes to introduce Keto-friendly versions of popular menu items such as pancakes in the future.
“I want to take the supermarket off the table, is really what I wanted to do,” she said. “I wanted to be able to bring in that ‘from your neighbor’s yard’ kind of a deal.”
Before opening, DeSimone had to make some updates to the space, she said, such as pressure washing all of the kitchen equipment and moving the breakfast bar to make room for a baking area. DeSimone said she decided to put the baking area in the front of the restaurant so customers can see that everything truly is made from scratch with fresh ingredients. She’s adamant that nothing comes out of a box or a can, and said she works hard to ensure that her food has authentic, unique flavors.
“Being a consumer, that was one of my biggest things I hated,” she said. “Very few places could you go and you knew that it wasn’t from a box.”
DeSimone noted that the restaurant’s name is not the only way she tries to emphasize the importance of family. Her son, Tyler Perkins, works in the kitchen, and her daughter Britney Bodreau often helps out on the weekends with baking and waitressing when she’s visiting from New Hampshire, DeSimone said.
“It’s family. You can’t get anywhere in life unless you’ve got that keystone of your family,” she said. “So I really wanted to make sure that this was a family-based business and we really keep that family orientation with everything.”
Ella May’s Country Kitchen is open Mondays and Tuesdays from 6 a.m. to noon and Wednesdays through Sundays from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Additional information is available on the restaurant’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ellamayscountrykitchenandgoods/.
Source: Thanks https://www.lowellsun.com/2020/01/19/new-bakery-restaurant-now-open-in-dracut/