Thursday, February 17, 2011

Eating Out in Chester: Maria's Artisan Bread, Pastries, and Imported Specialties

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Anyone will tell you that food tastes differently outside of America. It’s one of the things that makes traveling outside of the country so interesting . Italian food, especially, has a certain flair and flavor of its own, and many people will go to Italy just for that. But if you’re pining for their bread or their pastries, or their olive oil, you can save the money on the plane ticket and drive over to Chester, where Maria’s Artisan Bread, Pastries, and Imported Specialties has you covered.

“A lot of stuff, like the extra Virgin olive oil, gets shipped to Sicily, and goes to the importer,” says shop owner, Maria Solano, “and then, I pick it up.”

It’s a process of delivery that provides a unique flavor to the community, one that many Chester residents are saying you can only find in New York.

We’ve heard from a number of customers that you can only find [the things we’re selling] on Arthur Avenue,” says Solano.

Along with the olive oil, Solano also prides herself on having a shop that has jams, cookies, and even bread that is so back to the basics and absent of preservatives that you might not even know what you’re biting into when you taste it.

“Salt, water, yeast, and flour,” Solano says of the ingredients in most of the bread that she sells in her shop, “That’s it.”

Along with the bread and olive oil, they also have éclairs, homemade pasta, cream puffs, and other great items, as well as more on the way.

“We’re going to try to introduce some different cheeses,” Solano says, “We’re having like, dipping oils coming in on a weekly base. I introduce a new item every week.”

But the food is not all this small shop has to offer. Solano, born and raised in Rome, wants to provide her customers with an experience when they come into her shop, even if they’re just picking up a loaf of bread.

“We have Italian music playing in the store,” Solano says, “and it brings you back to the old world.”

“People are literally dancing into the store,” Solano continues, “It’s nice when you put a smile on a person’s face just to get a loaf of bread.”

One group in particular that she’s been putting a smile on their faces is the people who don’t have much, as Solano believes in giving to the needy anything that she doesn’t sell. The Market Street Mission in Morristown, a senior center, and The Hermits of Bethlehem, all get items from her store if they haven’t sold.

“We donate a lot of stuff,” Solano says, “At the end of the day, giving it away puts a smile on my face.”

But Solano won’t just give away anything. She’s always making certain that anything that leaves her shelves is of the highest quality.
“I wouldn’t sell it if I wouldn’t eat it,” Solano says, “I’m very picky about the way the bread looks, the way the cookies look.”


WHERE: 56 Main Street, Chester
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 908-879-1123
HOURS: Closed Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday-Friday: 10AM-5:00PM, Saturday and Sunday: 8:00AM-3:00PM
CUISINE: Breads, pastries
PAYMENT: Cash, all major credit cards
DRESS: Casual
THE SCENE: A small shop that’s reminiscent of the small shops in Rome
ATMOSPHERE: Maria and her daughters who might be seen on weekends, are a friendly group happy to chit-chat and say hello to you, even if you’re just picking up a loaf of bread. The customer is highly regarded here.
OWNER: Maria Solano

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