Downtown’s Hidden Gem: Nana’s Brings Farm-to-Table, ‘All-Day Cafe’ Philosophy to Westerly | Daily news alerts

WEST – Never mind that Nana’s Bakery & Pizza is tucked away in a secluded section of the High Street, facing a car park and sandwiched between Longo’s and the United Theatre.

Once Nana’s farm-to-table philosophy – and the fresh foods offered in Westerly’s new restaurant – becomes known – health-conscious food lovers with similar passions for eating natural, delicious and organic foods will have no trouble finding the hidden gem with the comforting name.

“Isn’t that a wonderful name?” asked Nana’s co-owner James Wayman one morning last week as he sat inside the bright and airy restaurant with its wooden chairs and benches and marble tables. “It’s heartwarming…people light up when they say it.”

Wayman, along with its business partners – Aaron Laipply, head baker David Vacca and executive chef Corey Lein – opened Nana’s earlier this spring at 82 High St.

“We’re an all-day cafe,” Wayman said with a slight smile. “You can come in for coffee and donuts in the morning and come back later for an upscale dinner and glass of wine.”

The donuts, he said, are made from freshly ground organic grains and fried to order.

“You can pick them up hot,” he said, still smiling.

At Nana, he explained, all breads and pastries — as well as pizza dough — are baked daily after a long, slow overnight cold fermentation process designed to develop flavor and improve nutrition. The dough is naturally leavened using regional and sustainably grown cereals.

Opening a pizza place in Westerly might seem a little redundant – especially with Longo next door – but the pizzas at Nana are decidedly different. Not only because of the naturally leavened dough, but because of the creativity of the creations.

Nana’s pizzas, some of which are available by the slice, including Rhode Island – topped with potatoes, fermented hot pepper, soup, oregano and lemon – and the mushroom marsala, which includes mushrooms Seacoast cremini, fresh herbs, marsala, koji cream and Sendai red miso.

“We focus on pizza, bread and a changing menu,” he said. “Everything is locally sourced and comes directly from the people who grow it, raise it or fish it.

“If you see a vegetable here,” he said, pointing to the clean, bright and open kitchen, “it’s from a local farm.”

Vegetable dishes at Nana include small plates such as “Yellow Eye Bean Salad”, – sourdough inflatido, guajill dressing, toasted almonds, roasted cabbage and herbs – and “Local Farm Vegetables” – roasted local farm vegetables with glaze with fermented honey, pepita koji crumble and cheese.

Breakfast includes items such as “Nana’s Farm Egg Sandwich” – baked egg, slow roasted bacon and grilled koji pepper lardo on an English muffin – “Mushroom & Egg Toast – whipped ricotta, Seacoast farm mushrooms, butter Lemon Brown and Crispy Garlic – and “Fried Dough.” Nana’s also offers brunch on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Wayman said the team is always changing things up and experimenting. There are always options for customers with food allergies, he said, noting that Vacca is working on a gluten-free bread recipe and Lein is making sure there are always gluten-free dishes in the menu. Nana’s menu.

With his T-shirt, tousled hair and modest manners, the North Carolina native Wayman looked more like a farm boy than an award-winning businessman and restaurateur who, along with his former business partner Dan Meiser, opened the popular Mystic Oyster Club restaurants. , engine room and grass and bones.

In fact, Wayman, who lives in North Stonington with his wife, Heather, and their 9-month-old son, Alder, was raised on his grandparents’ berry farm just outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. , where, he said, he was introduced to farm-to-table life.

“I came to visit about 20 years ago,” said the 1996 Johnson & Wales graduate. “I’m here since.”

In 2020, Wayman and his team at Nana opened the original Nana’s Bakery & Pizza in Mystic. A year later, it was named one of “America’s Best New Restaurants, 2021” by Esquire magazine.

Calling Wayman “one of the unsung pioneers of American cuisine”, Esquire editors said Nana’s donuts tasted “like melting cumulus clouds” and described the New England pizza as “strewn with clams and bacon, like clam chowder if she spent a few months in Italy and had an epiphany in Naples.”

At Nana’s, “everything is elevated to the next level through deep fermentation and the careful hands of baker David Vacca and chef James Wayman,” the magazine added.

“Nana’s backbone is all about fermentation,” explained Wayman, founding partner and creative director of Moromi Shoyu, a small-batch fermentation company he started with Bob Florence and Debbi Michiko Florence that uses traditional methods in the production of his koji. , shoyu and miso.

Wayman said he and his team decided to open the Westerly branch after discussions with local philanthropist Chuck Royce and Royce’s son-in-law Dan King, executive director of the Royce Family Fund. The Royce family own the High Street building where Nana’s is located.

“It’s a wonderful partnership,” Wayman said, praising Royce and King and their contributions to Westerly.

“We couldn’t be happier to have James and his amazing team join our Westerly family,” King said. “I’ve been a fan of James, his food and his philosophy for years. He has a curiosity about food and an understanding of what food means to a community.”

“I really like Westerly,” Wayman said. “It feels like a real community…a community of families. It’s cool. Very cool.”

Nana’s interior design, which has a sort of “Scandinavian” feel, according to Wayman, was a collaboration with Nana’s team members, interior designer Mystic Kierstan Field and Westerly artist Sean Spellman.

“Sean did our branding, our signs and our menus,” Wayman said, pointing to one of Spellman’s artwork hanging on Nana’s walls.

“I am happy to have my job in a place that I believe is a catalyst for positive momentum at Westerly,” Spellman said in an email, “not just in the food scene, but in the community. as a whole, as a place that welcomes people of all ages and walks of life and also sets the bar for any local restaurants interested in making food with hyper-local, clean ingredients.

“Embracing local food systems and supporting independent regional farmers and artisans is the best thing a restaurant can do,” added Spellman, “apart from preparing great food in a welcoming space…everything the team at Nana’s is doing well.

“James and Aaron’s visual aesthetic, as well as Kierstan’s interior design, was a perfect fit for my job. I was thrilled to be a part of it.”

Like everything at Nana, the wine, too, has been carefully chosen with care. Nana’s offers a selection of organic and biodynamic wines, as well as organic coffee from Canyon Coffee, Leaves and Flowers teas, homemade chai lattes, their own fermented kombucha, and cocktails.

“We have a small wine list and it changes constantly,” Wayman said. “Same for our minds.”

On his Moromi website, Wayman states that with his “thoughtful approach to daily eating”, his mission is to continue on a path to “have a lasting impact on the broader food system”.

Wayman, who was head chef at Water Street Café and executive chef at The River Tavern in Chester, Connecticut, before partnering with Meiser, has been featured in The New York Times, Saveur Magazine and was named “Best Chef” by the Connecticut Restaurant Association. , highlights the “team” of Nana’s and the contributions of everyone who works there, including those of Nana’s manager, Haley Griffith, and all the servers and cooks.

For 19-year-old waitress Alana Hanka of Pawcatuck, working at Nana is “the best thing ever.”

“I know it’s about good food,” she said, “but they’re also good people. They really care about their employees. It’s great. …Working here is more like a hobby than a job,” she said with a smile. .

Nana’s Bakery & Pizza is open Monday to Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays and from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Visit

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About Walter Bartholomew

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