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Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Vegan food served up minimal environmental impact at Plant No. 01
From left, Carolyn, Lindsay and Kayla Bernacci stand in front of the Plant No. 01 vegan food factory. The restaurant sells a variety of vegan meals like lasagna, hash, mac and cheese and desserts. Somer Slobodian

Sustainability is at the heart of a new vegan restaurant in Glendale. 

Plant No. 01 was built from the ground up with a simple goal in mind: to sell freshly made plant-based, vegan dishes while making a small environmental impact. 

The restaurant is run by Carolyn Bernacci and her daughter Lindsay, who have lived in Niagara-on-the-Lake for about 13 years. 

The pair do everything they can to make the restaurant as environmentally sustainable as possible.

“I can’t tell you the lengths that I’ve gone to with the packaging,” said Carolyn Bernacci.

“Every bit of it other than the aluminum, which there is no compostable alternative for at the moment for safely putting in an oven, every bit of it is compostable,” she added. 

This includes the masking tape, labels, Zip Lock bags, and even their business cards. 

“We do spend more money on our packaging by far, but I’m not afraid to,” she said. 

Even with the extra costs, she still tries to keep prices down, but notes the extra dollar or two people may have to pay so that the restaurant can be more environmentally friendly goes a long way.

“So far, no one’s complained,” she said. 

“We even have compostable tape, because we don’t want to use glues and such. But I think that’s worth the investment,” she added.

Food waste is a concern across the province. Ontario residents produce about 3.7 million tonnes of organic waste every year, according to a Ryerson University study from 2018. 

Bernacci is proud to say Plant No. 01 produces only about one residential-sized garbage bag a week. 

“The piping bags we use are compostable. So, when we’re finished, they go right in our compost bin. So we’re heavy on compost and next to no garbage,” she said.

They don’t want to be responsible for any further garbage, she said. 

“We do try our best to stick to the no-waste mandate,” said Jessica Prebianca, one of the chefs at Plant No. 01.

A lot of leftovers are used to make crusts, breads, cakes and even muffins, she said.

When customers order lunch, they get their food in containers made from palm leaves. The leaves are pressed without any chemicals, Bernacci said.  

“So everything they have in here, it goes right back to the earth, and it’s not creating any methane or any off-gassing,” she said.

Supporting local farmers is also important to the Plant No. 01 family.

“Our produce and our additional ingredients, that’s all sourced locally, supporting local farmers,” said Lindsay.

Most of the interior artwork was done by Toronto artists, with a few pieces from Kitchener artists.

It was a long journey to open the restaurant on Westwood Court.

“Almost three years from initial concept, going through site plan, going through building permits, getting sign-offs for site plans, sign-offs for building permits,” said Bernacci. 

This is her first time running a restaurant. However, Lindsay has been working in the restaurant industry for about 10 years.

It was important that they build the restaurant structure themselves, said Lindsay, because they wanted it to be as eco-friendly as possible.

By supervising it from the ground up, they were able to oversee everything and have it exactly as they wanted.

Upcycling has been a huge part of their design process and everyday operations. Almost everywhere you look there’s something that was repurposed. 

“Every single thing here on the walls, except for the equipment, has all been repurposed and upcycled,” said Bernacci.  

Lindsay said her mom did all of the interior design work. “She’d be driving by a farm and say, ‘You’re tearing it down? I’ll take that.’ ” 

“There’s beauty in garbage,” her mom said with a smile. 

They also operate on mostly solar panels and they recycle their own grey water and use it to water their plants outside. 

“We have a lot of pollinators out there that are good for the environment and attract the bees,” said Lindsay.

The duo chose the Glendale location because it is convenient for tourists and is right off the highway. 

Though it’s a bit of a hike from Old Town, Bernacci said people still make the drive.

Both said many customers have been happy with the amount of parking the restaurant offers, too. “It’s easy to get in and out of,” said Lindsay, who has been a vegetarian for 17 years. 

Bernacci, who has been a vegan for 47 years, got the idea to start Plant No. 01 after after one too many experiences of going to a restaurant and not being able to order a vegan option.

She wanted to create a space where people can feel included, no matter what they like to eat. 

“You don’t need to be a vegan to come here,” said Lindsay. 

Lindsay graduated from Niagara College’s culinary program in 2015 and her mom, with more than three decades of cooking experience, has taken many vegan cooking courses.

Though the mother-daughter duo run the restaurant, another relative, Kayla Bernacci, also helps behind the scenes in the kitchen.

Most of the menu items are dishes that many people are already familiar with, including a six-layer lasagna, mac and cheese, and baked cheesecake.

Everything is made in-house, including the butter, ketchup, bread, and ricotta and mozzarella cheese.

“We just wanted to bring plant-based options to the Niagara region and just have more options out there for people,” said Lindsay.

Plant No. 01 is at 9 Westwood Court, off Townline Road, in Niagara-on-the-Lake.