By Joaquin Contreras
A couple with a flair for food and a passion for healthy living is behind Williston Park’s newest vegan restaurant.
Rock n Roots Eatery at 469 Willis Ave. has garnered a steady following since its discreet grand opening last year, enticing customers with alternatives to standard dishes with a sustainable and health-conscious approach.
“We literally rolled up our blinds at 2 p.m. on June 26 (2021). We didn’t put out any grand opening signs, we just did a silent opening and just rolled with it,” said Dina Bacalocostantis, 34, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband Samuel Martinez.
The venture started as a dream of self-employment for the couple, who became interested in health food through respective experiences, ultimately deciding to open a restaurant after working at a vegan resort in California and spotting the ideal location 20 minutes from their East Meadow home.
“I was really into health & fitness but wasn’t informed fully on how food, (specifically) animal products, was impacting my health, which in turn affected me physically. Slowly, after learning more and researching, I cut out all sorts of fast food which led to going vegetarian and then deciding to try veganism. Within 2 months, I dropped 30 pounds! I felt great and knew it all had to do with this new lifestyle change,” said Martinez, 37.
With their previous culinary experience, the couple decided to embark on their own culinary journey, one which would cater to both vegan and non-vegans while remaining loyal to the former.
“What sparked my interest first in starting this business was working in the restaurant industry for years and then spending some time traveling and seeing many cute cafes and hostels with a desire to start my own business. Later on, meeting my husband at a restaurant, we shared a very similar dream and passion for cooking. We saw this perfect corner store with great potential because of a lot of businesses, schools, offices, and highways surrounding it. Williston Park is a nice neighborhood, so we decided to give it a shot and try it out!, ” Bacalocostantis said.
The menu at Rock n Roots is comprised of a variety of plant-based dishes spanning burgers, falafel, paninis, and wraps, to smoothies and fruit bowls, and donuts and ice cream, with the majority of options being gluten and oil-free.
Two signature vegetable and fruit blend juices are made daily, as well as an “Immune Booster,” consisting of juiced ginger and turmeric roots, lemon, cayenne, apple cider vinegar, and filtered water.
The response from the community has been positive, according to the couple, and the restaurant is rated nearly 5/5 across platforms such as Facebook, Happy Cow, and Restaurantji.
Rock n Roots also promotes sustainability through their packaging, strictly using compostable materials such as natural fibers for all their sandwich containers and plant resin, thus eschewing petroleum-based oil products.
The eatery also offers reusable bamboo utensils and a discount to those that bring their own cup for juices, smoothies, coffee & tea, known as BYOC (Bring Your Own Cup).
“We try to promote a natural and alternative way to health and healing,” said Bacalocostantis. “It’s a passion-based drive that we have, and we want people to experience vegan food that tastes good and is healthy at the same time. We think there’s a misconception about healthy or plant-based food and we really hope that we can change that in order to improve the health of each other, animals, and the environment. We hope to inspire others to be more open to adopting a more plant-based (vegan) lifestyle after enjoying our food.”