Vito Aluia, owner of Puff Tarts has made his mark on the North Shore with his sweet and savory tarts. By, Lauren Carelli
Farmer’s Markets are a great place for small, local businesses to promote their product and to reach out to a wide range of people without dealing with the hassle of corporate. They are seen all over the North Shore and typically vendors range from fruit and vegetables to hand woven wool and you can even find the occasionalpersonal sharpener for those dull kitchen knives. For Vito Aluia, owner of Puff Tarts, he has taken advantage of numerous Markets and has introduced the North Shore to the delicious world of puff pastries.
Selection of tarts at their Newburyport stand.
Although he may not be a household name (yet) Aluia has seen nothing but success since he started his business four years ago. The history of his company is short and sweet: while vacationing in Rhode Island with family and close friend Janis Rothbard he came across tarts which he purchased assuming they must be to-die-for because of their outrageous price. Bite by bite he only became more disappointed and a conversation later in the evening sparked his interest in baking his own tarts.
“Their prices were something like $38 for a large and $18 for a small. We had to buy one, because we figured that at that price it would be the best damn pie we ever had. Well it wasn’t,” says Aluia. “The conversation that night was about the fact that we could do better. Flash-forward about a year I was talking to Janis, we both have other careers but felt that it would be fun to do something together. I have always liked to cook and the thought of that pie was still there.”
With the bitter taste left in their mouths, Vito and Janis gave the tart world a shot. They had decided on Farmers Markets because they presented the least amount of risk, and made it easy for both of them to continue their other jobs. What they weren’t expecting was that they would sell out at first Market appearance.
“We made around 50 tarts that first morning and figured we would be eating tarts at home all week. To our surprise we sold out in 2 hours. The next week we made more and we also sold out.”
And for good reason. Aluia’s tarts are not just your average pastry. He focuses on the European style tart where he creates his own hand-made layered puff pastry shell. Steering away from a food processor allows Aluia to design the pastry to be layered, flaky and crisp. Then he fills each with fresh seasonal ingredients, usually opting for organic whenever it is possible. His week-to-week tarts include apple, mushroom and gruyere, leek and bacon and spinach and feta, but with each season he adds more to the list.
“We have our regular flavors that we make, but we add different flavors as ingredients become seasonally available, like roasted tomato, swiss chard, apricot, peaches, strawberries, and figs. In the fall we make a killer pecan tart with no corn syrup and lots of booze. In general we have many combinations. We just added plum and Belgian chocolate this year and it has become very popular.”
With all of the different flavors it is easy to see why people keep coming back for more. There are options for customers with a sweet tooth or a savory craving. But when asked about his go-to tart, Aluia did not have just one in mind.
“Of course I like them all, customers ask what my favorite tart is and I say its like asking which child do you like the best. They are all good.Â Over the years we have developed a loyal customer base, and they all have their favorites.”
Currently Aluia is all about experimenting with new flavors. Sneak peak: he is crafting up an almond, dulce de leche and dark chocolate tart, or as he describes it “it’s like a big Twix bar.”
Whether you are a returning customer or new to his creations you absolutely have to pay him (or his daughter Vivianna) a visit at their stand. He sets up Tuesday in Lexington, Thursday in Gloucester and Sunday in Newburyport. And our advice to you, one pie won’t be enough! We had the opportunity to try six of his tarts, all of which were gone within two days. Our personal favorites were: Plum and Belgian Chocolate, Mushroom and of course Apple.
As far as the future goes, the options are endless. Aluia is currently still at his full time job, and although he does not want to get burnt out he is happily fulfilling a long-time desire to accomplish something in the food business.
For more information visit their website: pufftarts.com