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Laid Off, Cranston Native's Baking Leads to New Venture [Video]

After being laid off from her corporate job, Maureen Pregoni started baking. Her cupcakes are now center stage at Razzle — a new cupcakery, restaurant and wine bar she opened on Oaklawn Avenue using her life savings.

When Maureen Pregoni lost her corporate job, she joined the ranks of millions of other Americans forced out of work because of the bad economy.

And she started baking.

People always raved about her baking, especially her cupcakes, and instead of relying on unemployment or feeling sorry for herself, she decided to take action.

“I didn’t want to go back into corporate America,” Pregoni said. “There is this place in New York City called Sweet Revenge and I kept reading about it.”

The owner of Sweet Revenge, Marlo Scott (recognizable from those Chase Ink credit card commercials), was laid off from her corporate job in 2007 and opened a cupcakery, combining her management experience working for big media companies and love for cupcakes.

Pregoni knew she could do something similar and began scouting locations where she could open a cupcakery of her own.

“If she could do it, I could do it,” Pregoni said. “So I decided to open a cupcakery.”

It was hard, since places with favorable rents were usually not in good locations and vice versa.

She looked for months before finding a spot on Oaklawn Avenue next to and across the street from . It had a big kitchen, “so I decided I do lunch and dinner along with the cupcakery.”

And so Razzle was born.

Along with Chef Cindy Viggiano, Pregoni has created a unique combination of cupcakery, wine bar and restaurant that she said is similar to The Cheesecake Factory.

“You can come in and buy cupcakes and leave, or you can have dinner and take some cupcakes home with you,” she said.

Pregoni, daughter of former councilman Eddie Ferns, had no foodservice experience before opening Razzle. She also said she folded in her life savings. At a time when small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, it’s a huge risk.

“I used my life savings to open this place, but it’s something I wanted to do,” she said. “I hope it works. So far, so good. Everybody loves it. I haven’t gotten any complaints. They love the cupcakes. That’s the way it goes.”

Upon walking into the store, you’re first greeted with a display case brimming with colorful rows of cupcakes that Pregoni bakes throughout the day. Along with classic flavors, such as red velvet, there are more creative choices, such as peanut butter and jelly, and Snickers, complete with caramel and nuts on the bottom and topped with a bite-sized Snickers bar. And there’s always her signature cupcake: chocolate chip cheesecake.

Viggiano, the child of the family that owned Barbara’s Restaurant for 25 years on the Elmwood Avenue Cranston/Warwick line, is in charge of the restaurant side of the business, which features a sensible but inspired menu that avoids the common mistake of offering too many choices. Instead, each item is focused and inventive. Consider the Grape Vine burger — a burger stuffed with blue cheese, topped with a grape cream cheese spread on a toasted bulky roll. And there’s the chicken habanero, featuring chicken breast, chopped pineapple, jalapenos, sweet and spicy habanero sauce and provolone cheese. Have it in a wrap or as a Panini.

There are pizzas, four pasta dishes, scrod, salmon, steaks, salads and eight appetizers ranging from homemade tortilla chips served with a creamy salsa dip to the tuna and avocado tartar roll-ups, served with a wasabi soy sauce. And there’s the popular fried calamari, which comes with cherry peppers in a champagne garlic butter cream sauce.

Prices are recession-friendly, too. The most expensive dish is the rib eye steak, which comes with soup or salad and a choice of penne, rice pilaf or house of the day potato at just $16.95.

Between the cupcakes and restaurant, it’s easy to forget Razzle is a wine bar, too. Pregoni said she wants Razzle to be a gathering place, where people can stop in for a drink or try the unique pairings of select wines and cupcakes the store will be offering.

Razzle is also Pregoni’s effort to build a business with her daughter, Lauryn, who is attending Johnson and Wales University.

“This is also for my daughter,” Pregoni said. “She’s partners with me in this. This is someday going to be hers. Hopefully.”

Razzle is open Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit www.razzlecupcakes.com or call 401-463-7299.

You can also check out Razzle's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RazzleRestaurant.

If you liked this story, consider "liking" Cranston Patch of Facebook for more local news and updates every day.

Chris12 November 15, 2011 at 11:35 AM
Maureen, I wish you the best with your new business. You've got what it takes to be successful!

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