MIDLAND BEACH, Staten Island (WABC) -- "Harvest Cafe" on Staten Island isn't just special because of their amazing food, but also because of the people who work there. "Harvest Cafe" focuses on brunch, lunch, and training adults with developmental disabilities to work in the food service world. And the result fills both the heart and the belly.
"Harvest Cafe" is located at 694 New Dorp Lane in Midland Beach, Staten Island.
"The people are wonderful, the food is really good also, but I really have to say I like the whole idea behind the restaurant, it's really nice," a customer said.
There are a number of reasons to come to "Harvest Cafe" on Staten Island.
There's the view, the food including their crab cake sandwich and their mascarpone polenta, and the people who work there like Shanta Harrell.
"I do food service area, I do the sugars, the teas, and I give them to the customers," a worker said.
"How does it make you feel having this job?" Eyewitness News reporter Lauren Glassberg asked.
"It's wonderful," she said.
"Harvest Cafe" is sponsored by the nonprofit "A Very Special Place" which was started 40 years ago to provide services to developmentally disabled children and adults.
"Not only do we train people, but once we train them we employ them here, and then we get them ready to go out in the community and other types of places," said Diane Buglioli, the Deputy Director at "A Very Special Place".
The restaurant's been open for four years now and it's a destination for many regulars.
One of the most popular items is the pretzel crusted chicken club.
A chicken breast is dredged in flour, then an egg and milk mixture, before going into the pretzel crumbs.
"It gives it the extra crunch factor, a little saltiness, a little savory, on the chicken breast," said Nick DiBartolomeo, "Harvest Cafe" Chef.
Chef Nick deep fries the chicken and places it on a pretzel bun with a smoky mayonnaise and lots of bacon.
"How can you not love this place? I've seen the growth of these young people, adults where they didn't make eye contact, but now they shake my hand, they know me by name, I know them by name, I see them outside at other things and they come on over, it's just a phenomenal experience," a customer said.
For the customers and for the trainees, it's a great time.
"It's so much fun, I greet people, I help them find a seat," a worker said.
"I think you can feel it with some of the people, they're so proud to be here, it's kind of an upscale place, it's a lovely environment, and I think they get motivated by it and they feel special to participate in it because it's their place," Buglioli said.
"Harvest Cafe" also serves dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.
For more information please visit: http://www.harvestcafe-si.org/
Pretzel Crusted Chicken Club Sandwich Recipe
4 oz Chicken Breast
2 tbsp A.P. Flour
1 whole Egg
1/3 Cup Milk
1 cup Pretzel Crumbs (smash your favorite pretzels to make crumbs)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 Pretzel Roll
3 Sliced Tomato
4 Cooked Bacon strips
cup Shredded Lettuce
1 tbsp Smokey Tomato Mayo
1 each Pretzel Coated Chicken Breast
1 cup Vegetable Oil
Smokey Tomato Mayo:
1 tsp roasted tomato paste
2 tbsp Mayo
Pinch of garlic powder, salt, and pepper
1 tsp Liquid smoke
Method of Preparation:
Combine milk and beaten egg in a bowl. Sprinkle chicken breast with salt and pepper. First dredge in flour. Then dredge in egg/milk mixture. Then dredge in crumbled pretzels.
Heat oil in saute pan over medium high heat. Cook chicken, both sides until nicely browned. Slice pretzel roll in half and toast, take bottom of bread spread Smokey tomato mayo, shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, cooked bacon strips and cooked chicken breast. Top off with bun.
Neighborhood Eats: 'Harvest Cafe' features delicious food, trains people with developmental disabilities