When I walked into Verde, I could not help but feel instantly lighter. The fresh, geometric accents on the floor and walls, and the potted plants placed around the door made me feel like I was settling into a tranquil garden or covered patio. Every surface had an almost rosy tint to it, reminding me of summer and warm days spent in the sun. As I sat down in a corner booth beside one of the copper accented tables, I looked up and noticed the sign on the counter. It read: “We are on a mission to make the salad world a better place.” I knew I had discovered the perfect, healthy spot for lunch.
Owners Gonzalo Gout and Alejandro Porteny met in middle school in Mexico City. There, they enjoyed watching their mothers and grandmothers cook, cultivating a passion for food from an early age. Later, Gonzalo went to culinary school in New York, where he met Mariana Villegas, who is in charge of food at Verde. Alejandro went to school in Boston. The two kept in contact, calling each other once in a while to toy with the idea of opening a place of their own. It was not until after each of them had spent time working in the restaurant world here in New York that they began to seriously consider this special venture.
In the summer of 2016, after walking the streets of Manhattan for many months, Gonzalo and Alex came upon the perfect location for Verde. It was to be a “fine, casual” salad experience that mixes the highest quality ingredients with meticulous attention to detail in a grab-and-go informal atmosphere. I would say that they have more than achieved their goal.
From the ingredients that are chosen on a daily basis, down to the way each salad is packaged, the process to make the dishes is curated to provide the customer with the absolute best. The celery and Brussel sprouts are all shaved by hand, the potatoes are cooked individually, and the deliciously hearty vegetable broth is also used to hydrate the couscous. Marina has her hands in everything that is made, and, according to Alex, “She is extremely proud of every salad she puts out.”
Shy, but lovely, Marina is a delight to watch in action – passionate about her craft as she prepares the salads in their state of the art kitchen. During the early part of 2017, I have already indulged in each of their selections: Winter Flowers, Fingerling Potatoes, Tri-Color Beets, Mushrooms, Brussels & Kale, and Heirloom Carrots. For those who want to add a bit of protein, there are small portions of shrimp, chicken or steak packaged alongside the salads. And as not to go away thirsty, their combination fresh juices are also superb.
The word salad, Gonzalo stated, is a very general category for most. “It’s salad, what more can there be?” However, for this conscientious team, there are categories even within the category of salad. “For instance,” said Alex, “spinach doesn’t taste the same as radicchio.”
Inspired to make a difference in the way people eat, the two men have made environmentally ethical sourcing of vegetables a top priority. Most of the vegetables come from local farmers’ markets and the menu is entirely dictated by what is available seasonally. “I am hopeful for the future of food,” said Gonzalo, explaining that there is a growing movement away from processed foods.