STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Love Earth gives a big, green hug to Staten Islanders, fresh on the food scene as the borough’s first and only dedicated vegan eatery.
“Veganism is on the rise,” said Danielle DiLillo with a broad smile. She owns the business along with Renee Raia and Anthony Gerardi.
“We’re just here to raise consciousness and awareness of high-vibration foods,” said Di Lillo, over a mason jar of just-pressed, potent celery juice that the kitchen normally blends with lime. It’s one of several “Healing Nectars” on the menu highlighted as “Farmacy.”
Love Earth, in Richmond Valley, also blends concoctions like “Miracle Red Juice” — beets, carrots, apples, celery, limes and ginger — and “Anti Cancer” elixir — cucumber, celery, kale, spinach and lemons.
“High-vibe foods are loaded with nutrients and very important ones that can heal physical and mental health,” explained Di Lillo.
“When you put dead animals in your body, you’re legitimately killing your vibe,” said Di Lillo. And out of respect for the Mother Earth, the business uses no plastic.
Love Earth vows a brand of bakery that’s gluten-free, peanut-free, soy-free, dairy-free and egg-free. Food is baked, not fried. Cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, muffins and cookie dough balls, part of its initial line of sweets, use organic sugar. Regular sugar, Di Lillo pointed out, uses animal bone char in the processing, which gives the granules their clean, white color.
“Sugar is so bad for you. Here we do all these allergen-friendly desserts but what I’m looking to do next is to bake everything with coconut sugar,” said Di Lillo.
Although considered “healthy,” Raia said that food is not prepared with honey. It just is too controversial of a food among vegans, as the insects can be compromised and exploited by human harvesting. So the restaurant avoids using it.
Also on the menu are five salads with various beds of greens and house versions dubbed “Loving Kale,” “Love Spinach Salad” and the “Love Salad,” the most basic with greens, cucumbers, red onions, olives and tomatoes with a roasted pepper vinaigrette.
Veggie-based burgers come on a bun (not gluten-free) with chips and a tussle of lettuce. Patties are made from portobello mushrooms, pea protein, chickpeas, black beans and sweet potato. An artichoke-spinach version is blended to toothsomeness with gluten-free flour, rice and nutritional yeast. It comes with a tomato and creamy pesto, one of Di Lillo’s signature sauces.
Soups on this inaugural menu include Coconut Thai Butter Bean, Vegetable Minestrone with red beans and Santa Fe, a chunky brew of garlic, onions, bell peppers, beans, sweet potato, cilantro and Ayurvedic spices.
There are veggie-centric sandwiches like the eggplant-driven “ELT” and apps like the fiery Buffalo Cauliflower, hummus and guacamole with chips. Raia is a two-time Staten Island Advance Cookbook and one of her award-winning dishes lands on this menu — the mojito bean and plantain salsa served with tortilla chips.
Di Lillo and Raia are passionate about their vegan lifestyle.
Di Lillo introduced a vegan and Paleo-diet menu at a former venture, the now-closed Dominick’s Bakery. Raia has self-published a book in 2017 on the subject, “Heal the Planet. Heal Your Soul: Awaken Through Veganism.” The restaurant has been years in the works. Di Lillo admitted it was hard to find investors who believed in the project. But Gerardi understood what the pair was trying to do. And the concept hit home since his son suffers from severe food allergies.
Love Earth will roll out cooking classes, yoga and “Broga,” a yoga tailored for men.
“We have a space downstairs for anyone who wants to help humanity on a collective scale,” said Di Lillo.
“There are so so so many benefits when you eat from the sun and from our mother,” she emphasized, adding, “Love earth! Love your mamma!”
Love Earth is located at 4916 Arthur Kill Rd., Richmond Valley; 646-960-6411. In the works is the website LoveEarthCafeBakery.com. The cafe is kosher certified.