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EAST HAMPTON — Every morning, Amanda Pizzoferrato arises well before dawn — and the rooster’s morning cock-a-doodle-doo — to open The Sleepy Rooster Cafe she owns with twin sister Nicole Pizzoferrato in the Cobalt section of town.
“Roosters are known for being up early and hard workers, and have strong personalities. We both embody that, but it’s always been a joke our whole lives that we’re always tired, always sleepy,” Amanda Pizzoferrato said. “We’re targeting the commuters. You have to get up early for work, but you don’t really want to. You’re tired — just because you have to get up early for work doesn’t mean you’re an early bird.”
The name of the little restaurant, in the space formerly occupied by K. LaMay’s Steamed Cheeseburgers, and before that, Pizzeria Da Vinci (which moved next door), is a humorous play on words. The cafe, which launched Dec. 12, is located off Route 66/East High Street in the Cobalt Flea Market/post office plaza.
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After seeing an ad for the business, full-time accountant Nicole Pizzoferrato made some inquiries, and “it all just kind of fell in place perfectly,” so she convinced her twin to move home from Syracuse, N.Y., to help run the venture.
The 27-year-olds have a special place in their hearts for the first meal of the day.
As a child, Nicole Pizzoferrato loved breakfast, and would eat at a diner every Sunday morning. “I love the homey, farm-y, urban feel, the comfortability it brings. It’s always a happy place to be,” she said.
Her sister runs the day-to-day operations, with help from their mother Wendy, father and siblings. Bruce Moquin, owner of the now-closed Snak Shack, which was just down Route 66 at 197 E. High St., is the chef on weekdays, along with his stepson Luke. “We’re blessed to have him. He’s already taught me so much,” Amanda Pizzoferrato said.
The quick-service cafe targets drivers on the go and commuters. “Everything we make, we try to make it car-friendly,” she said, showing off paper cups that can fit into a car’s drink holder.
Breakfast is served until closing at 2 p.m. The creative menu includes egg sandwiches (The Sleepy Rooster: fried chicken, a fried egg, cheddar cheese and bacon between two waffles with the cafe’s signature maple/jalapeno aioli), sandwiches and wraps (the Perky Turkey comes with turkey, bacon, provolone cheese, avocado, lettuce and tomato), burritos and bowls.
They serve fresh coffee and smoothies (Mudslide, Tropical Holiday, Avocado Apple and others) and small bites (fried waffles with cinnamon and sugar or powdered sugar; waffle fries and tater tots).
Their location on Route 66 affords them business from motorists heading toward Portland, Middletown, Hartford, Marlborough, Hebron and other areas. “It’s the perfect little spot,” Amanda Pizzoferrato said.
“Saturdays are insane — it’s nonstop” — so much so that it’s common to see a line of customers out the door, she said.
Amanda Pizzoferrato, who does the prep and cooking, has known she wanted her own business for some time. She grew up loving food, and as a child, was always baking cakes and cookies. “Most of the time, her food was horrible. That’s what I was thinking. (But), it was so much fun. I was a part of all her taste testing and experiments,” said her mother, Wendy Pizzoferrato.
The sisters are intuitive eaters. “We don’t promote diet culture, we promote ‘eat what makes you happy,’ whether it’s a waffle sandwich, a smoothie, a salad: You honor your cravings, and you eat in moderation. You don’t feel any guilt or shame after eating something that’s known today as unhealthy,” said Amanda Pizzoferrato, who has a sales and marketing background.
Her sister handles the financial end of things. “I’ve always eaten what I wanted to, and recognize I want to make my body healthy,” Nicole Pizzoferrato said.
Her twin has had a complicated relationship with food. “I really got caught up in diet culture. I was over exercising, I was under eating. I was trying every diet: body shaming. It really affected me mentally and physically to the point where I sought out medical help,” said Amanda Pizzoferrato, who moved in with a family friend, also a dietician, after college.
Both women have adopted the nutrition philosophy as a lifestyle. “It was a long process, but my health completely began to change,” said Amanda Pizzoferrato.
Her twin knew she was going through a tough time. “We have a special connection and I really wanted to be there to support her,” she said about bringing the style of eating to the East Hampton area. “We’re similar, but we’re also complete opposites, so we balance each other,” Nicole Pizzoferrato said.
Traditionally, diner food is so tasty because it’s often fried and accompanied by rich sauces, onion rings, fries and other high-calorie foods. Portions are often huge.
At The Sleepy Rooster, everything is made fresh, and the waffles are baked from scratch.
The sisters are hoping to spread their message of healthful eating to young people, some of whom may have conflicted feelings about food. They post inspirational quotes and other health messages on their Facebook page. The feedback has been phenomenal, Amanda Pizzoferrato said.
“I don’t really like being in the spotlight, especially sharing something so vulnerable like that. It’s a little awkward at first, but it was a necessity,” she said. “I tried the corporate world, but it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t giving me that passion, that fulfillment I really need.”
Social media has been their only method of advertising. There, the women get creative with their posts and photographs. They also have been running contests, such as the current promotion: guessing how many roosters are in the cafe. The winner takes home a $15 gift card.
The twins enjoy their new goal: “Embodying our brand — not only promoting our food, but promoting our mission, which is teaching people how to really listen to their body and eat, be happy and do what’s best for them,” Amanda Pizzoferrato said.
The cafe is located at 367 W. High St. For information, call 860-467-6181, visit The Sleepy Rooster Cafe on Facebook or Instagram @thesleepyroostercafe