Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset

Olmo’s handmade bagels, produced in very small batches to start, have sold like hotcakes since the restaurant’s opening in late 2018. Demand for them only increased during the pandemic, when portability became paramount. So chef and co-owner Craig Hutchinson decided to focus more on that demand—and to make that focus more official. Where Olmo’s pre-COVID dining room served sit-down meals, a storefront dubbed The Bagelry now dishes out thousands of meticulously produced bagels every week.

Energetic and gregarious, Hutchinson grew up in the New Haven area and worked in a variety of restaurants elsewhere before returning to the Elm City to work at Caseus, Olmo’s predecessor at the corner of Whitney and Trumbull. He conceives of Olmo—meaning “elm” in Italian—as a tree. Core values such as kaizen, a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement, serve as the trunk. The roots are the people Olmo feeds and the local organizations it supports. Each branch is an arm of the business, from The Bagelry to catering, from Olmo@Home to the snack bar at Ridge Top Club in Hamden. While changes have been so frequent of late that staff joke about the multiple versions of Olmo, the analogy seems to work. Hutchinson and co-owners Jason Sobocinski and Jim Baronowski are continually pruning some branches while growing new ones.

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Like The Bagelry, Olmo@Home is relatively new, offering ready-in-minutes meals that can be picked up at Olmo or delivered anywhere within a 15-mile radius of downtown. Choose the “classic” option and you’ll receive the given week’s menu of two dinners and a breakfast, whether omnivorous or vegetarian, for two ($72) or four ($144) people. Or order meals à la carte. Provisions such as beer, wine or bagelry items can be added.

Hutchinson delights in using local ingredients, and Olmo@Home’s creative director Jessica Priest puts them to good use in her innovative menus. Last week, I took home the Seacoast Mushroom and Fresh Cheese Pasta Kit with paired wine and the Ratatouille Dinner. The pasta dish featured Mystic-grown maitake and trumpet royale mushrooms, Luizzi’s stracciatella cheese and Olmo’s own fresh rye gemelli. Preserved Meyer lemon sauce and toasted breadcrumbs rounded out the kit, which allowed for mixing and matching. My daughter enjoyed just the pasta with cheese, my son added the mushrooms, and I went for it all. The flavors and textures were a welcome and exciting change from our usual family meals. This kit required a few minutes of cooking and assembly, but the detailed directions, accessible via QR code, brought the pasta to a perfect al dente. The wine choice, Cheverny Rouge Le Petit Chambord, was a red Loire wine that tasted a bit young but still held its own against the complexity of the dish.

During the pasta course, the pre-cooked Ratatouille warmed in the oven. The accompanying salad, composed of Massaro Farm kale and an assortment of pickled vegetables, was not for the faint of heart. But the strong vinegar flavor was a hit with the adults and the salad quickly disappeared. The Ratatouille was thick and bubbly when it came out of the oven, boasting tender but not mushy eggplant and squash and a rich tomato sauce. While the pandemic-related need for prepared meal delivery may be waning, many reasons come to mind for giving delicious, low-effort food to yourself or others—a busy job, a new baby, a family illness. Arriving home after a long workday with a bag full of dinner felt like a relief.

With the explosion of The Bagelry, Hutchinson says he’s been constantly refining his recipes and technique. Olmo’s current bagels are bigger, airier and, in my opinion, more reminiscent of a classic New York bagel shop than they used to be. Hutchinson says he’s sought out the exact right flours from specific farms and the exact right sweetener to feed the yeast. Chewy on the outside and soft on the inside, the bagels are worthy of the lines that form on the weekends to get them.

Once you’ve made it to the front of the line, you’ll find all the classic bagel types—plain, Sesame, Poppy, Onion Sea Salt, Pumpernickel and Everything—and can add a schmear of cream cheese in a variety of flavors or opt for hummus instead. For a heartier meal, select one of the bestselling bagel sandwiches, such as the B.E.C. ($5.50, with bacon, two eggs and provolone on an Everything bagel), the Lox of Love ($13, with double lox, scallion schmear, tomatoes, capers and red onion on an Everything bagel) or the popular Breakfast Reuben ($11.50, with “pastrami corned beef,” alpine cheese, two eggs, sauerkraut and russian dressing on a plain bagel).

If an Everything bagel isn’t everything for you, you can try the Everything Everything bagel sporting onion, garlic, sesame, black sesame, sea salt, black pepper, korean chili flake, cheddar, seaweed, vinegar and tofu bacon. These are perfect bagels according to my daughter, the carbohydrates connoisseur in our household. You can buy an individual one ($2), add a schmear (plus $1.50) or pick up a half-dozen ($11) or baker’s dozen ($22).

With the blessing and support of his wife, Cara, Hutchinson is onsite every day steaming and baking those bagels, no doubt thinking about the next branch to grow.

The Bagelry at Olmo & Olmo@Home
Olmo – 93 Whitney Avenue, New Haven (map)
Bagelry Hours: Tues-Sat 7am-4pm, Sun 7am-2pm
(203) 624-3373

Written and photographed by Stephanie Wratten. Image 5 features Craig Hutchinson and The Bagelry manager Zena Alexiades.

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