When Dominic Calabrese used to drive from a masonry job in the Rochester area to his home in Farmington, he often thought about stopping for a sandwich when he reached the village of Victor. But he found such eateries limited there.
So when the housing market took a nosedive, Calabrese seized the opportunity to launch Taste of Italy Market & Deli. The 55-year-old opened the 1,400-square-foot business on East Main Street in Victor last September.
It is Calabrese's first venture of this type. He spent roughly 30 years in the masonry business and was part-owner in a 500-seat Italian restaurant called Bruno's in Canandaigua in the mid-1990s. That business has since closed.
But Calabrese says Taste of Italy is something he has always wanted.
"It's a slower pace and more fun," he says. "Plus it gives me more one-on-one time with the customers."
The business has been catching on, he says. "People are beginning to realize they can come here and don't have to drive into the city for specialty Italian items."
Taste of Italy offers Italian meats and cheeses, salads, olives, cookies and pastries. Popular entrees include cold cuts on a roll with chips and a drink, and a cup of homemade soup with a sandwich, both priced at roughly $5. Specialty sandwiches, including the Hot Italian, which features assorted cold cuts on grilled Italian bread, rotate daily and are popular with customers.
The restaurant also features fresh bread, pastries and cannoli. Calabrese works with several local vendors, including Pittsford Farms Dairy and Petrillo's Bakery on Lyell Avenue.
The market sells the Cora brand of Italian and Mediterranean foods, from pastas and sauces to olives, pepperoncini and Tuscan peppers.
Calabrese is the sole employee but does get some help from his parents. His mother, Ducky, helps prepare some of the food-including homemade Italian cookies sold by the pound-and his father, Ralph, runs errands and picks up produce.
The deli serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Businesses can call and place orders for pickup, Calabrese says.
The building has ample parking in the back, and Calabrese also likes the location because it is in an area of growth. Several businesses have opened recently, offering customers a variety of services.
While Taste of Italy is still in its infancy, Calabrese already has expansion plans. He wants to add to the dinner menu, incorporating family-style Italian dinners that allow patrons to gather around the table and get a filling meal at a modest price.
He also wants to expand the grocery section to include fresh fruits and vegetables like those sold from carts by merchants in Italy.
In the warmer months, he plans to put a couple of cafe tables and chairs outside the shop with a bistro awning above. He also may offer deliveries to local businesses if there is a demand.
Calabrese declines to disclose revenue for his business but says it is climbing toward a profit, despite a poor economy and a cold winter.
"We're catching on," he says. "I think the place can be a tremendous success."