Joe Faro’s business cards call him Tuscan Brands’ “chief food taster,” but that modest moniker doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of a career in which he’s built, not one, but two, wildly successful Italian food empires.
Chapter one of that entrepreneurial life was Joseph’s Gourmet Pasta and Sauces in Haverhill, which grew into the largest producer of specialty pasta and sauces in the country and which Faro sold to Nestlé in 2006. Chapter two has been Tuscan Brands, which includes restaurants and Italian markets located throughout the region, including its newest in Boston’s Seaport District and its flagship Tuscan Kitchen and Tuscan Market in Salem, New Hampshire, which Faro calls “the epicenter of our scratch Italian brands.”
Now Faro is embarking on what he calls “Chapter 2.5:” Tuscan Village, an ambitious 2.8-million-square-foot mixed-use urban development on the site of the former Rockingham Park horse track in Salem, New Hampshire.
When the multi-phase project is complete in 2022, it will be a true “gateway to New Hampshire,” consisting of up to 1.2 million square feet of office space, 800 residential units, 11 restaurants, two hotels, 75 retail shops, a convention center, grocery stores, community gathering spaces, and much, much more.
“This is a game changer,” Faro says. “Not just for New Hampshire, but it’s a game changer for New England.”
We caught up with Faro to chat about the project, what growing a business and making a great sauce have in common, and his idea of the ultimate VIP dinner.
Northshore magazine: Tell us about the new Tuscan Village development.
Joe Faro: Three years ago we acquired Rockingham Park, a 170-acre horse track. It’s a very iconic property because it is literally one of the first things you see when you come into the state of New Hampshire.
Our vision has really been to be patient. The idea is to do something that’s meaningful and that people will be able to enjoy for generations.
NSM: Do you hope this will be a kind of Salem downtown?
JF: That’s exactly what it is. It’s city streets with street parking, with all kinds of pedestrian [lanes] and pocket parks. There’s a lake in the middle of it. There’s a big entertainment complex…an outdoor stage [where] you can do everything from a country music festival to a jazz and wine festival to a Christmas tree lighting to putting an ice rink out there in the wintertime. It’s designed around bringing the community together, and that’s what’s really been so exciting for me about it.
NSM: What lessons have you learned as an entrepreneur?
JF: I think the hardest lesson of all is that no matter what you’re doing, no matter what you’ve done, any new venture requires all the ingredients. You have to take the time, you have to have the right people, you have to have an innovative idea and product. Time is the most important ingredient. It took me 20 years to grow Joseph’s Gourmet Pasta and Sauces, and it’s going to take me 20 years to grow Tuscan Brands.
You can’t put those things together quickly. Building a great business is a lot like making a great sauce. If you try to rush the sauce and you turn the heat up really high, you actually end up burning the sauce and it doesn’t taste very good at all. But if you turn that heat nice and low…you let it simmer for five or six hours, then guess what? You have a beautiful, sweet, perfect sauce. I call it the three P’s: patience, perseverance, and passion.
NSM: What’s your favorite childhood cooking memory?
JF: Anytime I got to cook with my grandmother. That’s where I first became passionate about scratch Italian food. Sunday dinner was such an incredible thing…That dinner started at 7 a.m. She would start to make sauce, make meatballs. They made the bread and they made the pasta. It was literally 8 hours of cooking for three hours of eating, and you would do it all over again the following Sunday. We pay homage to my grandmother at Tuscan Kitchen in our Sunday Pranzo with Nonna Carmela’s Sunday Sauce.
NSM: What would you serve a VIP like Meghan Markle for dinner?
JF: I would start with a beautiful salumi e formaggi antipasti, which features our truffle salami, homemade smoked pancetta, a little bit of 24-month Parmigiano reggiano…and some homemade burrata, with our homemade ciabatta and focaccia bread, made in our stone hearth ovens.
I would do a mid course with a pasta tasting…three things in small tastes: a little wild boar ragu with truffled gnocchi and shaved pecorino tartufo; garganelli alla Bolognese with shaved 24-month Parmigiano Reggiano; and tagliatelle al tartofo with shaved truffles.
The entrée is osso bucco, a beautiful veal shank that’s braised over six hours, with a little wine and pan juices, over a saffron risotto.
Then I would do a dessert sampler with a little gelato sampling, our tiramisu, and the torta calda al cioccolato, our version of a beautiful warm chocolate cake, with a little gelato in the middle of it.
And if you can make it through that, you get a prize!