Chef Kaitlyn Roberts, owner/proprietor at Easy Entertaining on Providence’s Valley Street, has what you can call a snarky sense of humor. Roberts has run the business as a catering company for 10 years and four years ago opened up a farm-to-fork café at the site — a place that reflects her easy-going, straightforward style.
Which shows on the menu’s sassy little mantra under the heading “Warning,” and reads, “What you are about to crush is over 70-percent locally sourced…we source locally and operate sustainably not because it is ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’, but because it is what we’ve always done,” and at the end where it says you’ll enjoy a true taste of Rhode Island, so “Now, chew on that.”
Really, you should. Though Easy Entertaining’s main business is by far catering, the café offers a literal taste of the kind of things they make, and is a popular breakfast and lunch spot for locals and those passing through.
Roberts started the café four years ago, she says dryly, “Mostly to appease my landlords because we were using this as event space,” adding it’s proven popular for locals and people who want to hold a quick business meeting over lunch.
You get a solid idea of how committed they are to local sourcing outside, where a small urban garden boasts tomatoes, kale, herbs and other vegetative wonders. Inside has ample seating and a semi-private space to the side that seats 18, and is used by folks like the local Rotary Club. Everything is made in house by Chef Ashley Vanasse and her staff.
Breakfast offerings are simple and local, like the Signature Egg Sammy, a homemade English muffin with two eggs from Baffoni’s Poultry Farms in Johnston, best washed down with Rhode Island’s own New Harvest coffee. Lunch gives you more options, from house-made soups to lobster salad to buffalo cauliflower wrap to grilled pizza of the week. If you have a gluten allergy, you can get any sandwich on gluten-free bread at no extra cost; the menu reads “No up-charge for allergies,” very unusual in the restaurant business.
The café is housed in a building at Rising Sun Mills, sprawling structures that were once part of Rhode Island’s bustling jewelry-making scene, in which Roberts’ father once worked. Roberts is from North Providence and trained at Johnson & Wales University.
She stresses the local angle, and how they make everything from ketchup to bread here, sourcing from sustainable-minded companies from within a 250-mile radius of Providence, including Baffoni’s Poultry Farm and Narragansett Creamery.
The menu changes four times a year to coincide with the new season, reflecting the availability of locally sourced products at those times. Easy Entertaining also offers programs like one-hour cooking classes; recent classes were in “Simple Summer Sweets,” “Farmers’ Market Cooking,” “Grilled Pizza and Wine Pairing” and “Backyard Barbecuing.”
And if you chat up Roberts, chances are you’ll see evidence of her sharp wit. When I first met her, I said she looked familiar. She laughed and shot back, “A supermodel, right?”
Possibly. But more importantly, she looks like — and is — a super-smart businessperson.