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While Bird & Wolf café and bakehouse opened a couple months ago, the brand’s fine dining restaurant concept just opened on May 5, serving an elevated menu focused on local, plant-based fare.

We sat down to chat with Matt Morello about the opening of his new restaurant concept on May 5, Bird & Wolf, in North Andover. Morello and his Helltown Hospitality Group partner, Xochitl Bielma-Bolton, both have long histories in the hospitality industry as well as lifetimes spent learning from family and dear friends that food and dining are about so much more than any one ingredient or any one technique or style. They collaborate with an easy rapport and have taken this concept from a spark of an idea, more than two and a half years ago, to a living, breathing, brick and mortar sensory journey in North Andover. 

It’s the space itself that will be diners’ initial introduction to this new concept. As the only stand-alone building on the block, diners will enter the space and take note of the brand-new construction that the partners planned themselves, from details like outlet positioning and light fixtures to the bright and airy minimalism of the design program throughout.

The space is accented with contemporary lines and elements of wood, metal, and green. Lots and lots of green. Morello estimates that there are a few thousand plants and succulents in the space, including the lettuces and mushrooms grown for menu items, filtering the space and contributing to making Bird & Wolf a truly non-toxic environment. 

In all ways, this new addition to the North Andover dining scene will be a genuinely biophilic experience, where the elements of the natural world and the modern world work in tandem to create a whole and holistic reality. This ethos is reflected in every element of the concept from menu items to interior design to food sourcing and production.

Additionally, the partners have paid close attention to making sure the space reflects the community, with made items for sale and artwork on display. They commissioned local and celebrated artist TimmySneaks to create four seven-foot-tall paintings for the walls of the restaurant, including near the chef’s table, that are both playful and meaningful with images of cartoon and animal imagery and splashed with bright color and symbolism. 

The partners are insistent about including proteins on the menu that are outside of the conventional animal proteins on most restaurant menus and are eager to share house-made nut cheeses and milks. They’re aiming for a 50% vegan and vegetable focus. Items we are most excited to experience include the mushrooms with shallot, thyme, spinach, and black truffle, and the smoked and cured mussels, octopus, and clams with trout roe.

The price points for menu items reflect a profoundly dedicated process, with the team committed to making as much as possible on their own, but with a nod to repeat weekly customer visits. Morello shares that the ultimate aim is “for customers to return a couple times a week, maybe for dinner one night and a pate and wine on another occasion,” so that Bird & Wolf will become a neighborhood gathering space. 

When chatting with Morello about this project, his passion for food, and his culinary experience, he emphasizes the “chain of custody” for each item and ingredient that brought him to this point. The most striking takeaways that come from his approach are his dedication to the food path and a respect for all hands and hearts involved from beginning to end: the seeds and animals and products grown; the people who nurture and share these products with kitchens; the staff and culinary teams who serve, make and plate the food; and the diners who complete the cycle by sharing in the experience and returning for more.

It’s refreshing to hear a culinary professional speak with as much celebration for farmers, fishing crews, staff, and teams as for the diners and communities who share in the food and sensory journey. That same respect for community comes through when Morello speaks for his fondness for this particular area and the way in which he will continue to chase farming and water seasons to source the freshest and most local items possible.

He appreciates that Bird & Wolf will be a unique experience for anyone who steps inside, realized by a team of individuals committed to freshness and to creating as much as possible in-house, and he looks forward to all that the future is sure to bring.

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