On October 27, a new restaurant opened and joined Scranton’s downtown area. A different kind of restaurant. One that serves food, which is locally and seasonally grown, so that it’s good for you. It is called Terra Preta Food & Drink. It is located in the Ritz Theatre building on Wyoming Avenue.
Portuguese for “black earth”, Terra Preta was named after a self-renewing, nutrient-dense soil, which is found in the Amazon Basin. This restaurant takes pride in strengthening the community through cooking and nature.
The restaurant’s foods and drinks are what Terra Preta calls “inspired from the most delicious parts of the earth”. Its foods includes soups, such as pork belly broth with rice noodles, and salads, such as quinoa apple salads. There are also flatbread sandwiches, such as vegan (made with oven-dried tomato, squash, peppers onion, pesto, and cashew cheese) and chicken (made with balsamic mushroom, blue cheese, and caramelized onion). Entrees include grass-fed, rib-eye steak, roasted duck, and pan-seared Scottish salmon. Brussel sprouts and stuffed sweet potatoes are a couple of their side dishes.
The foods come from local farms in Northeast PA. Rowlands Pennsylvania Produce, a hydroponic farm located in Falls, provides greens such as salad greens and arugula, to Terra Preta. Overlook Farms in Dalton, also a hydroponic farm, provides chicken and pork. No Bull Ranch in Mount Cobb provides beef and pork. Miller Family Farm in Clarks Summit provides produce, such as corn and raspberries. Hopkins Farms, located in Falls, gives the restaurant their root vegetables, such as butternut squash, beets, peppers, and potatoes. Terra Preta’s breads come from Beta Bread Bakery & Deli in Clarks Summit. Manning’s Ice Cream is currently making an exclusive flavor, coconut ginger, which will be the house ice cream sold only at Terra Preta. There will be different items on the menu every month and every season.
Terra Preta has a Norwalk cold-press juicer and a Vitamix blender to make wheatgrass and vegetable juices. They are also used to make mixed drinks with all-natural ingredients. One of these drinks is a meechilada, which is made with Mexican beer, fresh-squeezed lime juice, hot sauce, chile de arbol powder, and salted rum.
Terra Preta is owned by Trish Dickert-Nieves and her husband Greg Nieves. After graduating from Marywood University in 2005, Trish became a manager at Carl Von Luger’s Steakhouse, a restaurant in downtown Scranton owned by her father Bob Dickert. Bob once owned Great Uncle Peter’s Steakhouse, which was located in Newton Township, PA. When Bob opened Carl Von Luger’s Steakhouse, he expanded the menu providing more than just steak. He is guiding his daughter to help her run Terra Preta.
Trish’s inspiration for her restaurant came from her recovery of MS. When she was diagnosed with MS, she started to make healthier decisions in eating by consuming locally grown fruits, vegetables, and wheatgrass. By doing this, it eventually became a remedy for her MS. With guidance from her father, Trish Dickert-Nieves is now following her father’s footsteps in owning a restaurant with her husband Greg Nieves.
“It’s exciting to be part of something that is supporting a local community and something that changes with the season,” she said.
The head chef at Terra Preta is Donna Vannan, an immigrant from Tasmania, Australia. Ever since she emigrated to the United States in 1994, she has been having much experience in working with food. She first worked for Urban Organics in New York City delivering food to people. She then moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where she worked in Lucky Cheng’s Nightclub. After that, she moved back to New York City, where she gave birth to her daughter. After Sept. 11, 2001, she moved to Scranton.
Donna became a chef in many restaurants in the Scranton area. She was a chef at Winston’s Pub & Hotel (currently Camelot) in Waverly. She became an executive chef at the Inn at Nichols Village in Clarks Summit. She also cooked at the Fern Hall Inn, which serves as a restaurant, bed & breakfast, golf course, and boat house, located at Crystal Lake in Clifford, PA.
Donna Vannan buys the foods at their peak from local farms. She keeps them fresh by either freezing or canning, a skill she learned when she loved in her father’s produce farm in Tasmania. She makes jams and jellies out of fruits when they become out of season.
“What I learned myself through doing this is that farmers are looking to grow more stuff,” she said. “A lot of the farmers that I talked to are looking to work with a restaurant.”
Donna believes in getting food the freshest way is to get them from local farms rather than foods which were shipped from out of state or country.
Terra Petra has four other cooks, who are Stephen Marquette, Stephen Rinkus, Darryl Desiderio, and Tom Mezick. Kevin Parker is the bar manager. Bob Dickert’s wife, Margaret Dickert, helps design and organize the restaurant.
“We provide excellent service,” said Margaret. “And we make sure the customers are happy.”
Terra Preta offers fine dining but has a casual atmosphere. It has artworks of vegetables called MRI’s, which are hung on the walls of the dining room. They are called MRI’s because they show the transparency of the vegetables. This resonated with Trish Dickert because she had MRI’s done when she had MS. The MRI’s are those of an artichoke, a banana, a tomato, a corn on the cob, and a pineapple. There is also a picture of Andy Warhol’s print called After the Party, which is also hung in the dining room. The restaurant also has a big bar table with a neon light, which reads “Love”, above the mirror.
Terra Preta is currently only open for dinner but will eventually open for lunch as well. The hours are Sunday-Thursday 4pm-9:30pm; Friday-Saturday 4pm-10:30pm. The address is 222 Wyoming Ave Scranton, PA 18503. The phone number is 570-871-4190.
“I think it’s going to be a hotspot,” said Bob Dickert. “Once people find out about this place, it’s going to be very successful.”