SALEM, N.H. — If you think nothing of traveling an hour for really good bread, then a ride up Interstate 93 into New Hampshire is in order. At Tuscan Market, not only are the loaves large, flavorful, and crusty, but you’ll find plenty of Italian cheeses, meats, freshly made pastas, prepared foods, and gelato. With this delectable selection of food — some of it made right in front of you — the miles quickly become insignificant.
Tuscan Market, which opened in November, sits kitty-corner to the two-year-old restaurant Tuscan Kitchen, both owned by Joseph Faro. The entrepreneur’s vision is to “bring our brand of scratch Italian to this area.” Faro, whose family has been in the food and bakery business for generations, is the founder and former owner of Joseph’s Gourmet Pasta & Sauces, which he sold to Nestle Prepared Foods in 2006.
He puts his pasta-making experience to good use. Specialties include butternut squash cappellacci (little hats), lobster ravioli, four-cheese ravioli, and pappardelle. Sharing the case with imported cheeses from Italy, France, and Spain, and prosciutto di Parma and dried sausages are the market’s own mozzarella, burrata, fresh sausages, and dry-aged beef. It’s easy to take home a ready-made feast: fresh pastas and sauce, meatballs or chicken Parmigiana, sides of oven-roasted vegetables, a ricotta pie or tiramisu to top it off.
Paula Parker of Amesbury heard about the market from co-workers. “Everybody raves about it,” she says. She likes that it offers “all kinds of things from Italy.”
Mornings at the market bring the aroma of crusty ciabatta, cranberry walnut bread, seven-grain loaves, pastries, and espresso. Midday traffic is brisk as folks settle in at the cafe for sandwiches, salads, and thin-crust pizza. Chris Hertrich, from Methuen, works construction in the area and stops in frequently. On this day, he’s waiting for a pressed Italian sandwich, filled with sliced meats and provolone, and a cup of tomato soup. He likes it here. “They use fresh ingredients and it’s a nice atmosphere,” he says.
Later in the day, customers shop for dinner. A small wine cellar boasts bottles “from every wine-producing region in Italy,” says wine director Joseph Comforti. “Some are from small-production wineries and others are just hard to get.”
Bruce and Cheryl Moro of Deerfield, N.H., have dined at Tuscan Kitchen a few times, but it’s their first visit to the market. “I’m impressed,” says Bruce Moro. “They’re not afraid to put out samples so you can try the bread and cheeses.” The couple is buying a jar of chutney, dried tomatoes in olive oil, Paesana roasted garlic tomato sauce (”I usually make my own,” says Cheryl, feeling a tad guilty, but she points out that the sauce contains all natural ingredients), a couple of fresh sausages, and a package of lamb. “Normally, we wouldn’t pay $26,” says Bruce, holding up the bag of marinated lamb loin, “but we’re going to try it for dinner tonight and see if the quality is there.”
Faro, who grew up in nearby Lawrence, remembers when his family shopped at local neighborhood stores for what were then ordinary Italian ingredients, now considered artisan foods. “Sadly, we buy our groceries where we buy our flat-screen TVs,” he says. “I’m trying to go backward.” As the owner of Tuscan Brands and “chief food taster,” as he likes to be known, Faro gains inspiration from frequent trips to Italy. In the fall, a second Tuscan Kitchen and small market is scheduled to open in Burlington.
Sicilian-born Pierpaolo Marchese, who works behind the meat and cheese counter, says many Italian immigrants shop here. “They love the authenticity,” he says.
Tuscan Market 67 Main St., Salem, N.H. 603-912-5467, www.tuscanbrands.com.
Lisa Zwirn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.