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Despite the miserable weather, it was standing room only for the Memorial Day weekend grand opening of Tuscan Village in Salem, New Hampshire. Turnout was so enthusiastic, it felt like a celebration of more than just the new lifestyle center, anchored by a substantial Tuscan Market towering with cured meat, fresh pasta, Parmigiano Reggiano, and imported tomatoes and sodas. For the first time in more than a year, with social distancing restrictions mostly lifted, life was nearly normal as people enjoyed a festive atmosphere with food samples and a magician. 

Tuscan Village, a 170-acre mixed-use property built on the former Rockingham Park Raceway site, will eventually offer more shopping, a hotel, and more than 1,200 luxury residences. One highlight of the first-phase opening was clearly a meatball throwdown. Tuscan Village developer/chef Joe Faro pitted his famous Tuscan Kitchen meatballs—a moist and delectable blend of beef, pork, and veal—against a classic Sicilian recipe with pine nuts and raisins prepared by Italian culinary legend and author Mary Ann Esposito, whose show “Ciao Italia” is the longest running cooking program on TV. 

The contest ended in a tie—who could choose? They were both delicious. But in a big win for both participants, Esposito announced that she will be filming her PBS show at Tuscan Marketplace this summer, in the café/shop’s brand-new cooking school. Put together by celebrity restaurant designer Taniya Nayak, who also crafted the interior of Tuscan Sea Grill in Newburyport, the sleek space will also host a slate of weekly cooking classes, wine tastings, and private events. 

Visitors at the grand opening were treated to a roving magician, amazing balloon artistry, Aperol spritz tastings, and the brand-new Smutty Nose beer garden, which also held a 5k road race. Next door at the new L.L. Bean store, visitors could take selfies with the famous Boot Mobile, while Williams-Sonoma hosted chef and author Matt Jennings of Healthy Living Market & Cafe and Red Barn Kitchen.

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