A conversation, part real and part imagined.
Me: I went to The Porch at Christie’s. They did a gut renovation of the old Chef’s Table and it’s amazing.
Friend: Chef’s Table? That place we went for coffee?
Me: There are babies there now.
F: At Chef’s Table??
Me: Yes. It’s The Porch at Christie’s now.
F: (silent reflection)
Me: They renovated the front porch and you can sit out there. It’s beautiful inside.
F: The place the construction workers go for lunch?
Me: It would be great if you just trusted me on this.
F: I do! Please tell me more!
Me: Well, it’s actually a great story. Andrea and Bill Pecoriello started it because they wanted a place to sell Sweet P baked goods -
F: Sweet P?
Me: (sighing) Yes. I was about to explain. They began Sweet P Bakery about two years ago. It’s a non-profit that teaches adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to bake. A few months ago, in April, they graduated their first class of Sweet P bakers. Unfortunately, they had no place to sell all the pastries so they decided to open a café/restaurant with a bakery counter.
F: Why did they-
Me: Shhh… They have three kids. The oldest, their daughter Jillian, was involved in an organization to help people with disabilities. She was paired with a three year-old boy and her entire family adored him. When Jillian left for college, their middle child, Scott, began seeing him. When he left, their youngest son, Justin, took over. The boy is now 14 years old. The experience inspired Andrea and Bill to create a program to help kids - well, adults - like him.
F: Are the baked goods any good?
Me: Crazy good. Amazing. My kids and I inhaled a Colossal Chocolate chip cookie, Merril bar, Sweet P pop-tart, and a cinnamon roll as though we’d eaten nothing but zucchini and diet Mr. Pibb for six days.
So, as luck would have it… well, for the Pecoriellos, not for the previous owners… Chef’s Table shuttered in January 2020. Fun fact: this location opened in 1926 as a service station and snack stand.
F: And kind of looked as though it hadn’t been updated since.
Me: Well… yeah. The location wasn’t exactly a destination spot, except for the BMS kids who descended like the eighth plague every afternoon.
The Pecoriellos see this place and realize its perfect, although it needed a gut renovation. They even refinished the walls. Today it looks like it belongs in Nantucket or the Hamptons not, you know, on Cross Highway next to a service station -
F: I still ca-
Me: - there’s a lawn so the kids can run around and an ice cream stand and the menu is full of flatbreads, bowls, salads, and a $3 egg sandwich. They sell penny candy and snacks and fun items made locally. Everything is high-quality and made at The Porch, even the sliced turkey is roasted there.
Oh - and they’re doing events! For instance, Sivan Hong came to The Porch and read one of her books to the kids. Then the Westport Book Store gave everyone books.
F: I have an idea! They should get a bank to participate and give everyone money!
Me: (ignoring Friend) It’s also a super happy place. Their motto is “Hello Friend” and everyone smiles, even the employees. Like Andrea said, “The world isn’t always an easy place. If you step up onto the Porch, life is about being happy and positive and accepted for who you are.”
F: Accepted for who you are?
Me: That’s the best part! The Porch also employs adults with disabilities in addition to the professional staff. Then they have Porch Partners that volunteer to help these workers.
Me: So these employees who have disabilities are inspiring each other to do things they never thought they could do.
F: Sounds like it shares a mission with Remarkable Theater.
Me: In fact, they have some of the same employees.
F: What does the “P” stand for?
Me: A lot of things. Pause, Pivot, Purpose, Pride, Porch… Pecoriello…
F: Has anyone cautioned them about the after-schoolers?
Me: Well, sort of. Last spring the teens arrived en masse without warning. The employees all looked at each other like, “What the…?” This year they're prepared for the afternoon onslaught with things like chicken tenders, pizza Pop ‘Ems, waffles with Nutella, and families can open a house account for them.
F: So all of this, just to sell baked goods?
Me: It’s more about their overall mission to employ people with all abilities.
F: Yes, but it’s a big deal opening a restaurant.
Me: According to Bill, “It helps that we don’t have experience in the food industry, so we’re not scared of anything.”
F: Great stuff.
F: We should go sometime.
161 Cross Highway, Westport