A Mediterranean market and wine shop that stocks everything from thick, to-go slices of potato-laden Spanish omelets to packets of cuttlefish ink has taken over the Mt. Pleasant home of Spanish restaurant Mola.
Now known as Nido, the shop realizes Mola owner Erin Lingle’s dream of opening a small grocery store. Lingle got to know many of the Mediterranean ingredients she stocks when she would spend three-month blocks in Spain working as a chef on guided rock climbing trips. “Throughout my career, I’ve always just wanted to service a neighborhood with tasty, healthful food, made from seasonal and quality ingredients, in the way that so many of the little eateries I’ve discovered in Spain and Italy do,” she says.
Bench seating at Mola has been converted into shelves lined with tinned fish flown in from Portugal and containers of long-stemmed artichokes, caramelized pecans, fried fava beans, fancy sparkling waters, flours for pasta making, and more Mediterranean items that Lingle had always wished she could buy in D.C. “I always struggled as a consumer trying to find salt cod that I could buy that wouldn’t be in giant quantities,” she says.
Prepared foods from Nido include frozen take-home meals like eggplant Parmesan or a lamb and mushroom ragu. There’s a whole section devoted to soups and salads made on-site. Popular items include smoky eggplant dip, dilly cannellini beans, and papas aliñás, or “dressed” potatoes in olive oil and sherry vinegar. Every day, shoppers will find tortilla Española, cake, and fresh breads like focaccia and pita, as well as an array of sandwiches such as a tuna option topped with hard-boiled egg, aioli, piquillo peppers, olives, and watercress. Customers can browse an online menu before placing pickup orders.
The wine selection, designed to be niche, spotlights small producers and female winemakers who “have a good relationship with the earth,” Lingle says. “It’s not just [wine from] Spain, Italy, France. We’ve been pulling in Serbian wines, Croatian wines, Tunisian wines, Moroccan wines. We’ve been trying to get wines from every country that touches the sea.”
The owners would like to start hosting wine-tasting sessions on the patio on Saturday afternoons. Once D.C. lifts its indoor mask mandate, Lingle says Nido will host an “aperitif hour” with small bites, wine, and vermouth. Nido is already partnering with local pop-ups, enlisting breakfast taco operation La Tejana, vintage clothing vendor Second Breakfast, and Happy Ice Cream, the cart from Happy Gyro in Dupont Circle.
After closing Mola at the beginning of the pandemic, Lingle quickly made the switch to selling prepared food. Soon after, she met Morgan Stana, one of the founders of charitable initiative Friends and Family Meal, which is devoted to helping hospitality workers during the COVID-19 crisis. The two hit it off, and Stana wanted to help make the market a permanent business. Sommelier Thea Merl came aboard to select wines, and the three became co-owners.
Nido (3155 Mount Pleasant Street NW) opened its doors for neighbors to discover without a major announcement. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a throwback. Nido was also the name of a restaurant Lingle used to operate in D.C.’s Woodridge neighborhood.
“Mola is a very specific Spanish word and it felt like it was too narrow for the focus we were going to. We wanted to be more broadly Mediterranean,” Lingle says. “[Nido] means ‘nest’ in both Spanish and Italian.” Having all the branding for Nido established was helpful, too.
Lingle says transitioning the business from a restaurant to a market has removed a lot of stress from her life.
“Pre-pandemic, it seemed to me that there was a trend towards highlighting the chef’s personality, back-story, family history, etcetera, almost as much as the quality of the food itself,” she says. “It almost seemed like in order to have a successful restaurant, a chef would have to publicize themselves as much as they would the food that they cook. I have always struggled with this, as I’m shy and private.”