All or Nothing Freshness at
Hooks Seafood Lovers
Story and photos by Carolyn Choate / Contributing Writer
Those mad for Mediterranean cuisine with a local spin have a pearl in Manchester’s Republic restaurant – especially those who love fresh seafood.
The Elm Street establishment is the dream of chef and owner Edward Aloise and his wife, Claudia Rippee, the restaurant’s baker and an accomplished art photographer.
After considerable time abroad observing European attitudes toward food, art and community, the couple worked to replicate the experience in the Queen City – one that was mindful of the ethical treatment of livestock and an overall respect for the environment.
They found a building with perfect bones in the former Desjardins Jewelry Store, transforming it into a European-style café with a black-and-white-tiled entrance, an inviting neighborhood espresso and wine bar, booths, tabletop seating and Rippee’s photography displayed gallery-style on the walls.
At the same time, Aloise was busy building strong vendor partnerships with area farmers for locally sourced products, vegetables, meat and poultry. Republic has more than 80 such relationships today, including a fleet of independent fishing crews providing local seafood brokered through fishmonger Sal Bramante of Moultonborough (see sidebar). Cod, haddock, halibut, monk fish and Acadia redfish caught in New England waters often star on the menu.
“We’ve evolved into the most successful seafood restaurant you’ve never heard of,” he said.
Aloise points to the daily special board featuring Mediterranean-inspired appetizers, vegetarian and meat or poultry dishes and whatever fish dish is inspired by that day’s local catch – albacore tuna seared rare with black and white sesame seeds and served with smashed sweet and red bliss potatoes, seared escarole and organic arugula; or Gulf of Maine sole with pistachio breadcrumbs, served with faro pilaf with braised beluga lentils, oven-roasted broccoli with house chili vinegar and saffron aioli.
With seafood sensations like these, Republic’s underground – make that underwater – draws newcomers and regulars alike.
For those who go the menu route, one is reminded of the depth and breadth of the Mediterranean influence on the 50-seat restaurant which opens seven days a week, including breakfast Friday through Sunday.
The red quinoa, beet and Moroccan spices served with Republic’s homemade pita bread, grilled lightly for that distinct charred flavor, but thick and airy as a cloud, is the perfect preface to Riverslea Farm lamb and Merquez sausage flatbread with sweet peppers, roasted red peppers, onions and feta. A citrus-mint cooler of lemon and orange juices topped with fresh mint and ginger ale from the bar (which also features a wide selection of wine, beer and cocktails) complements the savory dish.
Aloise runs a tight ship in his downstairs prep kitchen. Juggling provisions on-hand with what’s coming in from so many local vendors keeps the chef on his toes. White boards showing the day’s produce prep duties line the walls. Mounds of fungi from Dunk’s Mushrooms in Danville are getting a lot of attention on this particular day.
No stranger to Manchester’s food scene, the couple owned Café Pavone in Manchester and spent 20 years with Milltown Grille at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. In 2014, they opened Campo Enoteca just down the street.
Rippee notes that many restaurants gravitate toward the farm-to-table trend when it’s convenient with disclaimers like, “local whenever possible.”
But Aloise is adamant, “We drink the Kool-Aid here. It’s all or nothing.”
A restaurant manifesto says it all. “Republic is a place that fosters comfort and respect for our staff and our guests. Employees and guests must leave their issues at the border.”