Neighborhood Eats: Food haven for people with allergies, sensitivities on Staten Island

RICHMOND VALLEY, Staten Island (WABC) -- A restaurant on Staten Island has become a refuge for people with food allergies and sensitivities.

Love Earth Plant-Based Cafe and Allergen-Friendly Bakery opened just a year ago in Richmond Valley.

Much of that time has been spent just trying to make it thru the coronavirus pandemic, but the owners know there's a need for the food they're making.

"We're dairy, soy-free, nut-free, gluten free, and egg-free," co-owner Danielle Dilillo said.

And meat free.

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It's an approach to eating friends and owners Dilillo, Renee Raia, and Nicole Girardi came to in different way.

"I've been on this journey for 30 years," Raia said.

Raia, a chef, has been eating plant-based for much of her life.

Girardi has a son with severe food allergies.

"I wanted a place where I could go with my family and enjoy a meal and dessert," Girardi said.

And Dilillo got into it when she started baking for Nicole's son.

"I would sit at home before we opened and bake and bake," Dilillo said.

And they knew if they were eating this way, so were others.

But, when COVID-19 broke out they had to cut staff, build a delivery business, and figure out how to create an outdoor seating area.

"We don't bring in what we used to bring in but we're very fortunate and blessed we survived at least the rough time," Raia said.

The menu features vegan sausage empanadas, quesadillas with mesquite jackfruit, and the signature spinach artichoke burger.

"I'm having the cauliflower wrap and the sweet potato fries are delicious," one customer said.

And plenty of baked goods.

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The owners hope the pandemic incentivizes healthier habits.

"I think a lot more people realized they just have their health and nothing is guaranteed so you may as well be your best you can be and part of that is eating healthy food maybe like a wake up call," Raia said.

Owning a food business can be challenging in the best of circumstances. These friends are grateful they've been able to come this far.

Love Earth is open 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday for indoor dining, delivery, and take out.

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