Elmwood Diner Has a Recipe for Success

By ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Maybe it's the fact that the ingredients are sourced locally, or maybe it's that everything is made fresh to order, but there is no question that everything on Elmwood Diner's small menu is delicious.

This past fall, Zoe Neves and her husband, Paul Smith, re-opened the Elmwood Diner — formerly the Liberty Elm Diner — in the historic dining car on Elmwood Avenue.

Neves needed a flexible schedule so that she could be around when her two kids got home from school. Running the small diner presented itself as the perfect solution to her desire for a work-life balance.

The Elmwood Diner, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was car No. 806 built in the factory of the Worcester Lunch Car Co. in Massachusetts.

The barrel-roof dining car, with a shiny front counter and stools, also features an addition in the back with extra seating. Neves and Smith painted the walls a muted buttery cream color that allows the sparkly retro red and white banquettes — acquired secondhand from a Boston ice cream shop — to steal the spotlight.

The Elmwood Diner's menu is is small, but each item is made with keen attention to quality. The French toast, for example, is made of sweet bread soaked in the most decadent of sweet cream custards.  

Neves and her executive chef, Andrea Lafazia, make a point of using ingredients from local vendors such as Pat’s Pastured, New Harvest Coffee, Narraganset Creamery and Buffoni's Poultry Farm. The diner gets weekly deliveries from Farm Fresh Rhode Island's Market Mobile. Pastry chef Alicia Albernaz concocts retro creations with a twist like Mexican Hot Chocolate Cream Pie, featuring chocolate pastry cream, cinnamon, cayenne and a slightly sweet whipped cream tucked into a flaky crust.

“The diner is part of Providence's history,” Neves said. “We love our little state and Providence and take pride in how much is grown, produced and made right here in sunny Rhode Island, and so we do our best to support Rhode Island’s farmers and growers while maintaining a reasonable prices.”