Opening a restaurant is like having a baby — or at least that’s how Jules on the Green owner Silvio Mazzella describes it.
He spent countless hours preparing for the café’s debut, and when the doors opened on April 4, his baby was born — and he foresaw the lack of sleep to come.
The brainchild behind Mazzella’s motivation to open Jules on the Green, a peanut and tree nut-free restaurant, was his 12-year-old daughter, Julianna.
Born with a nut allergy, Julianna, or Jules, could never celebrate her birthday with a candle-lit piece of cake at a restaurant, Mazzella recalled. Now, he’s making this experience possible for not only Jules, but for those with and without food allergies.
Opening Jules on the Green, Mazzella said, fills a void for allergy-aware people in Essex.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served all day long. In the business’ first few weeks, Mazzella has seen parents eating salmon for dinner while their kids devour pancakes. Other adults, he added, choose an omelet and toast at 7 p.m.
All menu items are made with ingredients from local vendors.
With ceiling-high windows surrounding the 50 dining room seats, the view of Mount Mansfield is eye-catching for customers particularly at sunrise and sunset, Mazzella said.
Come summer months, an outdoor patio seated for 75 guests will open, he added, allowing for even better views. Plans for a fire pit and dog area are both in the works, he said.
“I envision the patio being a comfort area where people can just sit, relax, [and have] a glass of wine or a nice beer,” Mazzella said.
Jules on the Green will also open a banquet room for private functions in the next six months or so.
Mazzella is seasoned in the restaurant business. For the past 30-odd years, he’s immersed himself in various areas of the trade. He put himself through college by working in the industry, and he’s owned national franchises like Dunkin Donuts.
Jules on the Green, he said, is the accumulation of everything he’s learned along the way.
Mazzella has many goals on the horizon for the new restaurant, but first, he and his staff must work through the kinks of opening a new business in its first 90 days.
Staff is trained, recipes are altered, menu items change and customer feedback is gathered to perfect the dining experience, Mazzella said. The owner expressed gratitude for his hardworking employees, but noted more progress will come.
A fan of analogies — more than just baby-birth comparisons — he compared the process to taking an exam.
“You can’t study the night before and say, ‘I aced it,’” he said. “It doesn’t happen like that.”
Many customers who waltzed in last week were drawn by the bright space. The area was in need of another restaurant, too, they said.
Customer Kim Scofield agreed, and recognized the growing pains Mazzella and his staff still have to endure.
“It’s tasty,” she said, biting into a buttered piece of gluten-free bread. “Could be toasted a little more. [It’s the] little things. But it’s beautiful, and we’re really glad to have another restaurant in our neighborhood.”
Scofield and other gluten-free customers can choose from clearly labeled “gluten-free” menu items. Distinctions are also made for dairy-free offerings.
Tiramisu, cannoli and carrot cake are just a few of the many desserts invitingly displayed in a glass case. Behind this stands a full bar.
A couple of Mazzella’s employees have food allergies themselves and never could work in a kitchen or be a server before. Mazzella, a 14-year Essex resident, has a few food allergies himself.
When he got word a family from Ticonderoga, N.Y. was traveling to Jules with their teenage son who had never tasted restaurant-made desserts like tiramisu and cannoli cream, Mazzella was excited to know his brainchild was reaching people beyond the Essex community.
The spot at 1 Commonwealth Ave. in the Essex Town Center is a historic one. Demolished in 2012 due to lack of preservation funding, the site formerly housed one of Essex’s first settling families, the Butlers.
To honor the historic land, Mazzella tried to incorporate some of the old architecture into the café. The building also houses The Mazzella Group, a market leader in the restaurant industry whose locations are operated by JES Impresa Corporations.
Moving the company from Burlington allows Mazzella to be more hands-on in growing Jules on the Green, he said.
“We enjoy it so much, and we’re so happy to be able to bring [Jules] to a community that we know is embracing us,” Mazzella said. “That’s all we can really ask for.”