Small scale fine dining pops up in Providence

With the support of a career restauranteur and innovator, a new chef takes his place alongside some of the city's best

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 11/7/19

"I'm a lawyer," says Peter Carvelli of Bristol, underscoring his lack of "formal" culinary arts training. While it is true that Tuesdays through Fridays he is completely focused on his work as at …

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Small scale fine dining pops up in Providence

With the support of a career restauranteur and innovator, a new chef takes his place alongside some of the city's best


"I'm a lawyer," says Peter Carvelli of Bristol, underscoring his lack of "formal" culinary arts training. While it is true that Tuesdays through Fridays he is completely focused on his work as at Dussault & Zatir in New Bedford, a personal injury law firm, the rest of the week he's living his latest dream as a chef serving innovative, plant-based dishes of his own creation.

Saturdays are for the farmer's markets, where Carvelli picks up most of his ingredients for his Monday night service at Twelve Plants, his one-night-a-week pop-up restaurant at the Vinya Test Kitchen on Westminster Street in Providence.

Sundays find Carvelli spending a few hours prepping his weekly menu at Vinya. He puts on his lawyer suit Monday mornings, but leaves the office a little after noon to transform into a culinary visionary for the rest of the day.

Carvelli comes to the role organically — for the love of food. A vegetarian for most of his life, he's been exclusively vegan for about the past two years, primarily due to concerns over the environmental impact of meat production as well as animal cruelty. That said, Carvelli's cuisine is targeted to omnivores. "It's a restaurant, not a soapbox," he said. "If people come here and want to try it, that's wonderful, and if they like it, even better."

Carvelli is not entirely without formal training — he completed a 6-month program online at — but it's quite unlike the academic resumes most successful chefs bring to the table. According to Carvelli, the specific program was "Professional Plant-Based Chef Certification," with assignments ranging from various knife cuts to complicated dishes. The "final exam" was a plant-based party at the home Carvelli shares with his wife Linda, for 18 people.

Carvelli credits Twelve Plants' current Monday night residency at Vinya to the generosity of Massimiliano (Max) Mariotta, a native of Switzerland, resident of Barrington, and chef of over 35 years who has opened restaurants around the world from China to South America. Max's son Stefano, himself a Michelin star trained chef at age 24, with nearly a decade of experience, operates Rosmarin at Vinya the other nights of the week. On Mondays, both accomplished chefs are on hand to see that Carvelli executes his tasting menu perfectly — Stefano helps with prep and Max remains through service, delivering the courses and describing the dishes, beginning with the amuse bouche, a grilled king oyster "scallop" on a bed of bean puree.

Carvelli's lack of formal training was not of any concern to Mariotta — he decided to bring Carvelli on board for one reason: he liked his food. "It was really good and creative," Mariotta said. "He said 'I'm not a chef' and I told him it doesn't really matter. a lot of chefs after 4 years at culinary school, they can't cook anything.

"Peter has willingness and talent, you either have it or you don't. You can learn a lot of things but being a chef….it is inside of you. If you have passion, palate, and talent, you can cook for any restaurant in the world."

This is not the first vegan pop-up Mariotta has hosted at Vinya since opening 5 years ago. A raw vegan concept was hosted there for about 4 months before closing. "I don't know that Providence was ready for that," said Mariotta. "The opening of Plant City has changed that, people are more open to it.

"I eat meat; I come from a country when its all about cheese and cows and milk, but we need to have these discussions. You have to think about what's going on it the world. For example, I don't like fois gras, I don't think the geese are treated fairly so I don't sell it. I know its been done since the dawn of time but I don't like it, I don't think it's right."

On this Monday night, Carvelli was serving a tasting menu that included a Chickpea Panisse with black olive caramel and celery; Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque with tempeh croutons, coconut cream, and pepitas; a bbq maple roasted carrot with carrot crumble, carrot, puree, and carrot-top pesto; and Mushroom Risotto with shittake "bacon." Ripe green tomato sorbet served as a palate cleanser, and concord grape sorbet, pineapple sorbet, and a vegan macaron rounded out the menu.

In the small space at Vinya, executing a menu is a complicated dance, not just on Monday nights, but Tuesday through Saturday, when Stefano Mariotta executes Rosmarin's menu, and when Max's newest concept Lagotto, a pop-up featuring visionary tasting menus with black and white truffles as the star ingredients (dates to be determined), is serving. "You don't want people waiting long between courses," said Carvelli. "My initial idea was 12 courses for 12 people," he said, of the inspiration for the name of his concept. "I'm not sure where that came from — I haven't done a full 12 courses yet!"
"It's hard to work alone, doing everything yourself, and deliver this level of cuisine," said Mariotta.

Carvelli's not sure what comes next — for now, he's focused on developing and executing his Monday night menus at Vinya.
And Max Mariotta plans to continue promoting and nurturing innovative culinary concepts and developing them out of the Vinya Test Kitchen at 225a Wesminster Street, simultaneously serving as creative director, media and promotion guru, talent scout, and quality control expert.

"Food is more than nourishment," he said. "It should have meaning; tell a story. The simple things are incredibly good when there's meaning and cultural connection."

For information and reservations, visit the restaurants on social media: @twelve.plants, @rosmarin_pop_up, @lagotto_pop_up; or contact Max Mariotta at 401/500-5189 or

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