Sometimes the best things in life come to you in the most unexpected of ways. Red Wolf, a new pop-up restaurant created on Wesleyan’s very own campus by Abby Gruppuso ’16 and Wolfi Jorde ’16, is case in point.
Having now walked away from the eatery with an exceptionally gourmet food baby, I can say with confidence that Red Wolf is destined for culinary greatness. This excellence, however, is something I could not, and would not, have foreseen on my own. Before attending the eatery’s “grand opening,” I only possessed a vague sense of what I was getting myself into.
I was told that two seniors were starting a pop-up restaurant, and was invited to check it out on Tuesday, Jan. 26. I learned their names—Abby and Wolfi—and dinner was to begin at 8 p.m. at 24 Fountain.
So, not knowing a detail more than that, I accepted the invitation on account of the simple fact that I (a) like new people, (b) enjoy writing about food and (c) especially enjoy writing about food when that food is given to me free of charge. Keeping this in mind, on Jan. 26 I trekked to Fountain Avenue ready to be fed by two strangers who seemed kind and trustworthy enough.
Needless to say, my meal at Red Wolf was far, far more compelling than whatever I had anticipated. After being welcomed into Gruppuso and Jorde’s humble abode, I was immediately filled with good vibes. Why the good vibes, you ask? Well, let’s just say I never knew a senior house could look so quaint or smell so delicious as 24 Fountain did that night, and that gave me the hope that I had come upon something special.
Here’s a relevant analogy: car is to jalopy what real estate is to senior housing. Seniors love their little homes, yet those homes, or at least those that fit the stereotype, are most often in a constant state of grunge. We’ve all seen “Animal House.” Senior houses have beer cans strewn about. Senior houses have refrigerators filled with who-knows-how-old food. Senior houses have mildew and water stains on the ceiling, asbestos even.
The wood-frame housing Red Wolf, however, had the unthinkable: It had class. Seconds after I crossed the threshold of 24 Fountain, I saw a dining table, a pretty little spot set by candlelight with real, actual place settings and real, actual menus. From the entryway, I heard soft, old school pop (I would later learn that this was the sound of Gruppuso’s “cooking playlist”) from the speakers and smelled the delicious smells of what I would eventually have the pleasure of calling my meal. The hosts, clad in—get this—matching red aprons, told me to make myself comfortable.
The beauty of Red Wolf, I soon recognized, was not necessarily in this initial impression of class, but rather in the details, the little quirky things that made you realize “I’m eating in a pop-up restaurant on Fountain Avenue. How funny!”
After settling in, I zeroed in on that classily set table, and came across a few delightful things. The candlelight giving the room its soft quaintness was emanating from candles placed in empty wine bottles. Similarly endearing, each place setting was accompanied by wacky, clearly Wes student-owned mugs designed with phrases like “Freudian Sips.”
What was even more beautiful than this quirk, however, was of course the food!
Dinner was shared by an intimate eight-person group comprised of two friends, four journalist and social media folk (myself included), and (when they weren’t tending to their guests) the chefs, and it was absolutely delicious.
To start, we munched on freshly made focaccia, baked to perfection and finished with coarse grains of salt. Next, we were served an antipasto platter of prosciutto-wrapped honeydew, mini peppers stuffed with sausage, and bruschetta topped with the classic Caprese combo of tomato, mozzarella, and basil. All this was then followed by the main course—braciola (tender flank steak rolled into spiral medallions) over a bed of perfectly flavored mushroom risotto and cabbage braised in red wine—and, finally, dessert: creamy tiramisu served in individual glasses adorned with fancy snowflakes crafted in chocolate by Gruppuso herself.
By the end of the meal, I was wholly satisfied in various ways. Thanks to the delicious eats previously mentioned, full foodgasm had been achieved, and I had shared wonderfully strange and amicable conversation with new Wesleyan kids.
In a sense, this experience is precisely the one Gruppuso and Jorde had in mind for Red Wolf. Now in their last semester at Wes, the aspiring restaurateurs hope their pop-up will allow them to exercise their culinary talents while also connecting with fellow food enthusiasts over a delicious home-cooked meal that breaks the monotony of campus dining.
So, how exactly does one get the privilege of eating at Red Wolf?
The answer is simple. Each week, Gruppuso and Jorde will advertise a food theme as well as link leading to a website called Eventbrite, where hungry students can view a menu and sign up for a spot at the dinner table. The reservation policy is first come, first serve. So, be proactive because they will only take six people per meal! In the coming weeks, each diner will also have to pay a small price to cover food expenses.
Red Wolf prepares its meals weekly, on Tuesday nights. If you wish to eat at Red Wolf as soon as you can, check out the latest menu for “Southern Night,” which will take place this Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 8:00 p.m. All information can be found by at the following address : https://www.eventbrite.com/e/southern-night-tickets-21062032105.