By SUSAN ERICSON
In a space formerly home to a luncheonette inspired by the “grease trucks” of the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, customers looking like models in a Lululemon fashion show lined up recently for grilled avocado sandwiches, seed salads and millet-and-flax toast with coconut butter.
Yes, there’s been a complete 180 at the former Cravin Haven in Fair Haven, a beef-heavy luncheonette that closed in January after just a year of operation. The space, in the River Road shopping center anchored by an Acme supermarket, is now a strictly vegan restaurant and juice bar called Seed to Sprout.
Proprietors Alex Mazzucca and Cara Pescatore, both 33 years old and Rumson-Fair Haven Regional alumni, also own an established restaurant by the same name in Avon. And Mazzucca’s older brothers, Michael and Anthony Mazzucca, were Cravin Haven’s owners.
“We teamed up with my brothers for this,” she said, without offering details. “They’re super supportive,” Alex said.
For Mazzucca and Pescatore, “it’s like a homecoming in a lot of ways,” Mazzucca said. “We see our friends and our families. It’s a place in our hearts.”
There are plenty of tables in the dining area of this bright, welcoming restaurant, updated by Marco Lopez, Mazzucca’s husband. Calling himself a “Swiss army knife,” Lopez says he’s been in charge of the designing, branding and build-outs, helping to get the place open quickly.
New refrigerated bins full of grab ‘n go items such as vegan salad dressings, beverages, kale wraps and sandwiches – all made in-house – make it an easy stop for health eaters in a hurry.
“The seed salad and avocado sandwiches remain popular local favorites, though most of our customers are not vegan or vegetarian,” Lopez says.
Christie Ferraris, a history teacher at RFH, says she taught Mazzucca and Pescatore as students, and along with her oldest daughter, a vegan, has been a customer of the Avon restaurant. “So we’re thrilled that they’re here,” she told PieHole.
A complete brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday offers tofu scrambles, pancakes, French toast, and granola with yogurt, to name a few of the vegan dishes.
Raw food, soups, fair trade coffee and pastries, including macaroons and muffins, are also available.
“The best part of this location,” Lopez says, “is that most people have an association of a black hole. Now it’s becoming a social hub.”
Seed to Sprout is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.