Little Bites, Big Flavor
Bocaditos Comes to the Revolving Test Kitchen
The Revolving Test Kitchen (RTK) incubator program was launched in 2016. Its first graduate, Ray Gonzalez, went on to establish CocoRay’s, a restaurant on Parker Street in Lawrence that continues to serve his trademark Puerto Rican and Mexican fusion cuisine. Danny Torres, RTK’s second graduate and the chef behind El Encanto, was working this spring on obtaining a lease for a new location.
The RTK program is designed to give food entrepreneurs an opportunity to test and refine their business model while being supported by the Lawrence Partnership, the city of Lawrence and Northern Essex Community College. There are numerous benefits, including mentorship from Sal Lupoli, a food entrepreneur and the president and CEO of the Lupoli Companies.
Derek Mitchell, executive director of the Lawrence Partnership, an economic development organization, says the Revolving Test Kitchen is “there to help entrepreneurs take that big leap into a permanent long-term space.”
Angelina Jimenez, the latest RTK participant, is the owner of Bocaditos, a Dominican-inspired eatery. Jimenez started Bocaditos in 2015 as a catering service that also offered cooking lessons to aspiring chefs. Her cuisine became popular quickly, and Jimenez decided she was ready to open a brick-and-mortar location in Lawrence.
Her plans changed abruptly when the building she wanted to purchase was damaged during the gas explosion crisis last September. Refusing to give up, Jimenez applied for the Revolving Test Kitchen program and was selected. In the face of what others would have seen as defeat, she says the RTK “gave us hope.”
A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Cambridge and Lawrence’s EforAll entrepreneur accelerator program, Jimenez brings a variety of savory options to the Bocaditos menu, from homemade pastelitos, a type of Cuban pastry, to creative twists on salads and sandwiches. There is a strong emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. “Her tradition is not just Dominican food,” Mitchell says. “It’s fresh food. It’s food prepared right there and then.”
According to Northern Essex Community College President Lane Glenn, “There was a phenomenal group of finalists for the RTK this year. Angie of Bocaditos rose to the top on the basis of two things: her delicious food and her business acumen. She has everything she needs to be a success, and the RTK will help her get to the next step and open her own restaurant.”
Glenn says his favorite Bocaditos dish is the Cubano, a sandwich piled high with meat and pickles. When asked his favorite dish, Mitchell mentions the Red Bowl he enjoyed a few days earlier — a grain bowl that he describes as “so simple and yet so good.”
The Red Bowl seems to exemplify Jimenez’s approach to food in general: prepare the freshest ingredients in healthy ways that let natural flavors shine. If the steady stream of NECC students, faculty and staff visiting Bocaditos is any indication, that approach is paying off.