For years, I’d wait for a table at Estia’s, looking longingly at the cool green grass out back, at the chess table and the lush gardens, and I’d wonder: Why can’t we eat there? Well now, we can. Estia’s Hot Burrito is the answer to the question we had all been asking, “Can’t we sit in your beautiful garden?” Yes. Yes, in fact, we can.
From Mondays through Wednesdays this summer, the evenings are outdoors at Estia’s. The cozy dining room, with packed tables and dishes clanging, is still a hot spot for breakfast and lunch from 8:00 to 3:00. But as late afternoon comes on, the party moves outside. Full table service and a delightful drink menu allow people the experience of picnicking without the rough edges.
Holly Zappola is managing the execution of Estia’s Hot Burrito, under the ever-present guidance of owner and local luminary Colin Ambrose.
“Colin had this vision of an eventual food truck,” said Zappola, “a beautiful food truck with fresh food.”
That vision is yet to come to fruition, but in the meantime, the somewhat paired down Estia’s menu is prepared in the kitchen and brought out to guests lounging on the lawn. They stick to burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, which keeps the pressure on the kitchen relatively light.
“We’re feeling out what works best,” sad Zappola. “The truck is the hopeful eventual outcome of this pop-up. We are using this as a stepping stone to build up to a truck.”
Zappola got her start in the restaurant business across the Turnpike at Bay Burger. It was her first job and she worked there for six years.
“Two years ago, I started cooking at Bay Burger,” she said. “I was terrified – I was the only girl on the line. But I learned how to manage the line, and how to manage people.”
She loved the energy, and the connection to the source. Even though Bay Burger is fast food, there’s still an emphasis on sourcing local when possible, baking fresh bread and making homemade ice cream.
“I’ve always been interested in gardening, and fresh food,” said Zappola.
Working at Estia’s has been a dream come true for her.
“I come to the garden to pick radishes to be cut up for dinner,” she said. “I cut all the scapes off the garlic—I didn’t even know what a scape was before.”
The drinks come out—a distillador margarita for me and a paloma rojo for my friend. Our kids are frolicking in the green grass, playing with hula hoops and soccer balls that Estia’s provides.
“At first we thought we’d be getting the college crowd,” said Zappola, “but it’s perfect for families. The menu is great for kids—with quesadillas and tacos—and they can learn about what’s growing in the garden.”
It’s Tuesday night, so the band is setting up. An English guitarist strums for sound check as my daughter’s soccer ball soars towards him. He juggles it on his knee, his toe, the inner edge of his foot.
“Wow, you can play,” I say to him.
“I’m English,” he smirks as he kicks the ball back into play for the kids.
The chicken chili nachos come out, with heaps of guacamole, sour cream, and shredded chicken over homemade tortilla chips. The fish tacos—local porgy—are served autentico, with chopped cilantro and a fresh made tortilla.
“Now I cook on the line with Raul, who’s been the chef here since it opened,” said Zappola. “I’m learning how to break down a chicken, I prep guacamole every day, I’m on the phone with fishermen, ordering fish.”
Still, Zappola’s roots in the local restaurant scene run deep, and everybody supports each other.
“My first customer was Joe,” said Zappola of Joe Tremblay, Bay Burger owner who helped her get her start.
Joe’s wife Liza later clarified: “Joe was her first and fifth customer,” she said. “He went first, then he came home and brought the whole family back.”