Rainbow Grocery’s cafe, shuttered since mid-February, is undergoing renovation at the hands of Vanda Chong and Kellie Joe, who run an organic pizza company that has been making regular appearances at East Bay farmers markets for the past five years. Known for its gluten-free crusts and vegan-friendly options, the pizzeria will take shape as a food cart and bench area and is projected to open in May 2016.
“We wanted to make a product that we can share with the public and community,” said Chong, who is a longtime worker at Rainbow Grocery, the Mission’s vegetarian, worker-run cooperative grocery located at 1745 Folsom St. Her wife, Joe, has a rich culinary background that includes founding the Monte Vista Culinary Academy in Danville.
Launched in 2010, Chicks and Love Pizza came out of Chong and Joe’s lifestyle. “It all began with how we live,” said Chong.
The couple, who are beekeepers in their spare time, cultivate their own honey which they use as a secret ingredient in their homemade dough. By integrating their “love for gardening, backyard beekeeping and chicken-raising” into their business, Chong and Joe quickly made a name for themselves for serving baked-to-order flatbread pizzas at local farmers’ markets in Walnut Creek and in Danville.
Together, the pair of culinary entrepreneurs call themselves “the Chicks,” and have combined their talents with a passion for homegrown food and educating others on healthy living. Having created a menu of artisanal pies, Chong and Joe tout their product as “a pizza you feel good about eating.”
At their new Chicks and Love Pizza Patio, a 104-square-foot trailer that comes equipped with a patio space and three handcrafted picnic tables, Chong and Joe plan on providing customers with a menu that has “something for everybody” — ranging from meat-topped pies to garlic mushroom pizzas made with truffle oil. Their signature breakfast pizza, served with Aidells chicken apple sausage and topped with a farm-fresh egg, is expected to be a favorite.
The couple bought the trailer that previously housed the cafe from Rainbow, but said that the lot on which it stands is separate from the grocery and belongs to a neighbor who will sublet it to them. Chong said she first got the idea of taking over the space after receiving encouragement from her Rainbow co-workers following a pop-up of Chicks and Love Pizza at Rainbow’s 40th Anniversary celebration.
The trailer, which was not equipped with a full working kitchen, needed some work, said Chong. “We had to gut the whole thing by ourselves — luckily we are both very handy,” she said. Once the pizzeria-trailer receives its permits, Chong and Joe will be set to start serving customers in May, and will operate on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., for now.
“Once we get things going, we will consider serving food on the weekends,” said Chong.