What She’s Having: Meet the Power Women of the Newport Food Scene

Whether it’s the mouthwatering Italian Roast Beef at Newport Sandwich Co., the creamiest, freshest ice cream ever to cross your lips at Get the Scoop, handmade mozzarella cheese, small batch Italian coffee and specialty items at MOZZ, or organic, juicy af burgers and house-cased hot dogs at Mission Burger, if you didn’t know, now you know. Each of these and so many more of Newport’s top food and beverage outlets boast a woman at the helm.

Mother Pizzeria and Bar, co-owned by the impossibly stylish and innovative Lauren Schaefer, is named for the starter or “Mother” used in sourdough baking. The restaurant’s naturally fermented dough, made with local, stone-ground flour, serves as the foundation for a selection of seasonal pizzas, one style for dining in, another for takeout, all baked in a Marra Forni Neapolitan-style pizza oven. This stuff is the real deal but don’t sleep on the cured and aged meats and cheeses, the tinned fish, the creative appetizer selection or piled-high chop chop and Caesar salads.

The bar program features low intervention, mostly Italian wines by the glass, carafe and bottle, craft beers, and Italian-centric cocktails, with vintages and ingredients sourced locally and via small production- and women-owned operations whenever possible. For summer, a patio bar area serves al fresco sips and slices.

Schaefer is all about the team. “I’m a lead-by-example kind of woman. I’ve always learned best by watching others do, and I’ve been fortunate enough in my career and life to have a lot of talented and strong leaders mentor me. I try to show up every day with the passion and drive to make our team and business better than it was the day before (even if I’m having a really crappy day) and get in the trenches with everyone. You can’t lead by example if you don’t do the job with them.”

Newport Wine Cellar & Gourmet is the brainchild of the brilliant and sparkly Maria Chiancola. Her funky and fabulous shop, tucked away on Merton Rd. behind 7-11, features high quality, small production, hand crafted, unique wines, craft beers, and boutique spirits, as well as artisanal cheeses and gourmet products from all regions, at all price points, while lacking all snobbery. The shop offers weekend, stop-in-and-try wine tastings designed to introduce customers to new wines and food and spark conversation.

“My mantra is artisanal, sustainable, and exceptional,” Chiancola said. “I curate wines and foods from responsible, small, independent winemakers, growers, and producers from around the globe who are committed to pairing exceptional flavor and artisanal quality with sustainable and ethical practices.”

Jo’s American Bistro is one of those Newport restaurants whose dishes never fail you. Elegant but unfussy, offering a “fresh take on American cuisine,” this place delivers consistently well-prepared, generously portioned dishes. They’re well known by locals for their fish and chips recipe, a closely guarded family secret that dates back to owner Joann Carlson’s father’s former restaurant, the Dry Dock. Don’t get me started on the award-winning, unreasonably big and juicy bacon onion jam burger, or the grilled pork chop served with sweet potato mash, bacon and shaved brussels sprouts. And thanks to an award-winning bartender, a fresh and seasonal new cocktail program has also been rolled out.

Jo’s runs on Carlson’s experience, professionalism, and devotion to her business. “I pour my heart into the restaurant and it is easy because I love what I do. I want every guest who enters the restaurant to feel like they have walked into our home,” she said.

The Cheers of Middletown’s deli scene, The Roasted Clove also brings a family vibe to its patrons. Owner Felecia Landers is driven by a live-for-today philosophy, inspired by the loss of her closest friend in 2022. “I knew it was time to get my ass in gear and do what makes me happy,” she said.

The Roasted Clove makes hearty sandwiches, house-made sides, salads, freshly baked muffins and more that will knock your socks off. The Thanksgiving sandwich is so studded with hefty chunks of freshly roasted dark and white meat turkey, it’s unreal. Come for the food, come back for the love. “We make it a point to learn everyone’s name,” she said, adding that The Roasted Clove has a special affection for the island’s working-class community, its construction and blue-collar workers and its elderly population.

Wendy Logan
What She’s Having




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