Branching Out: Couple's Roots Bear Fruit at Wild Root Café & Market
Scroll through social media and you’re sure to stumble across a stunning shot snapped at Wild Root Café & Market, one of Boise’s most photogenic new haunts. The Eighth Street café specializes in artfully plated breakfast and lunch fare with a local, seasonal focus.
“I’m a visual person and I think it translates to the cuisine that we put forward,” said co-owner and chef Michael Trebbi. “Obviously I have an emphasis on presentation, to the frustration of my employees sometimes.”
Sunny-side-up eggs droop like a Dali painting down a shard of toasted baguette that’s crowned with a tuft of microgreens and paperthin radish coins. A mound of fluffy buckwheat pancakes looks like it screeched to a halt at the end of a rectangular plate, leaving streaks of sticky syrup and orange mascarpone in its wake.
“Our approach was to try to get as elegant a presentation as possible for breakfast and lunch, which I’ve always thought was lacking in the industry. … More often than not, when I would go out to have breakfast it was kind of boring to look at.”
Trebbi spent his formative years toiling over tortellini and gnocchi in his family’s Italian restaurant in Chicago. Named for his Florentine father, Claudio. Claudio’s specialized in slow-cooked Tuscan peasant fare—like handmade pastas and tender braised meats.
“They wanted me to work my way up from the bottom, so I was a dishwasher and worked through the restaurant starting as soon as I was old enough to hold a potato peeler,” said Trebbi.
Though Trebbi studied visual arts in college, the kitchen eventually called him back. After a stint in culinary school and a brief brush with fine dining at now-shuttered Chicago haunts Charlie Trotter’s and Trio, Trebbi took a job in corporate food service. There, he focused on creating healthy breakfast and lunch fare for companies like Google and Abercrombie & Fitch. Trebbi’s wife and business partner, Anne-Marie, also spent her early career in corporate food service, working for Motorola headquarters in Illinois before deciding to pursue a certification in holistic nutrition. These converging skill sets paved the way for Wild Root Café, which the couple opened in November 2015.
“This is an evolution of what I learned in my family’s restaurant, some of the presentations and techniques that I learned in fine dining and then a lot of what I picked up in my travels with corporate food service,” said Trebbi.
Trebbi classifies Wild Root’s menu as “trendy fare that’s easily approachable” but also “on that razor line of challenging some folks and keeping me engaged and having fun.” In addition to offering familiar staples like French toast, Wild Root gets experimental with specials like slow-cooked lamb shank sugo on bucatini pasta with kumquats, dates and raisins. Take one bite of the falling-off-the-bone tender lamb bathed in a rich tomato sauce, and you’ll taste his first-generation Italian roots.
“There aren’t any shortcuts—that’s the philosophy that I’ve taken,” said Trebbi. “So everything’s from scratch; we use zero convenience products.”
In addition to making things in-house, like crisp and zippy sriracha kettle chips, Wild Root also sources lots of local products—like Acme bread and produce from Ohana No-Till Farm.
“Our first step in the community was just walking around and meeting vendors at the farmers market,” said Trebbi.
Trebbi even worked directly with local sprout company, Shoots & Greens, to develop a long, feathery sweet corn shoot that he uses to crown his steak and eggs plate.
“The sourcing of local ingredients is challenging because of the geography of where we’re at,” said Trebbi. “Obviously we can’t do 100% local, and we don’t profess to do that. And we don’t profess to do all organic. … Really, we’re just doing clean ingredients with an emphasis on vegan/vegetarian.”
Trebbi says 90% of Wild Root’s menu can be made vegetarian or vegan—cashew cream sauce accompanies the avocado toast, and animal proteins like chicken can be replaced with tempeh or tofu. Soups are also a house specialty. Wild Root regularly offers chicken or beef bone broth, and even offered a popular ramen special, topped with a “painstaking soft cooked egg.” On the new spring menu, the café plans to offer a build-your-own soup bowl option, along with an array of new sandwiches and composed salads.
“Ideally, we were considering doing two menus a year, where it would be spring/summer and then fall/winter,” said Trebbi. “But the reality is that—with what we’re doing and as local as we’re trying to be—we can’t do that. So we’re looking at switching our menus four times a year, which I’m pretty excited about.”
Wild Root Café & Market
276 N. Eighth St., Boise • 208.856.8956