There’s a well-known saying, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” So when college student Emily Chandler spent four months there during a study abroad, she did what all the Romans do. She ate and ate, savoring some of the most delectable foods she’d ever tasted, as good and sometimes better than her Italian-American mother had cooked for her. Emily found the food to be “a big distraction” from her art studies and began to make a “study” of the various foods around the country.
When she returned to the States, Emily interned with Slow Foods, a nonprofit originating in Italy which is dedicated to supporting and protecting small growers and artisan food producers, safeguarding the environment, while promoting biodiversity. After graduating Wesleyan with a degree in studio art, Chandler found herself working in a New York cheese shop.
She realized that there was still a need in America for more regional and artisan Italian foods, not the typical canned and mass produced variety. As an artist and student of the arts, she realized that making foods the right way was also an art.
When her parents purchased a vacation home in Talbot County twelve years ago, they encouraged Emily to move here as well, they even offered to be her financial backer as well as advisors in a food business, being business school grads themselves.
That’s when she decided to open her own Italian market, Piazza, located in the Talbottown shops in downtown Easton. Piazza refers to the countless public squares in every Italian town, where visitors and locals gather at fountains, public markets and restaurants– to eat or just hang out and socialize.
Piazza market in Easton is all that–a place to eat, a food market and a great place to socialize while learning about Italian foods.
“I wanted this business to feature foods from the Italy of today, distinct foods from each region, for each season there’s something new. We stock Valpolicella Ripasso wine from the Veneto, Cicerchia beans from Umbria, olive oils from Tuscany, Sicily, Lazio, Umbria, Basilicata, Liguria and Puglia. Our white balsamic vinegar is wonderful, it’s from Emilia Romagna. Setaro is the featured brand of pasta from outside Napoli. We have a large range of cheeses in stock– about 30 varieties at a time. Our cheese selection is a mix of American, Italian, French, Swiss, Spanish and Dutch varieties. We always have three types of cured hams in stock, including Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto San Daniele.”
Most of their offerings are imported, a few things are locally made to Italian standards, like fresh pasta by the Easton restaurant Scossa, Chapel Country Creamery cheese, locally made goat cheese. Other locally made items include a tofu, Rise Up coffee, and a local honey. American artisan cheeses hail from Vermont and California, their salami is from Virginia and California.
In the five years Piazza has been open, it has grown to be a popular eatery as well the place to find the best fresh cheeses and meats, gourmet olive oils and countless other market products.
They offer a variety of sandwiches, paninis, salads and more. There’s seating inside and out in warmer weather. Their best-selling sandwich features Campana prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato.
“My mom did cook a lot of Italian food when I was growing up, and we continue to cook together often, we also try to make things we’ve eaten together in Italy. The tuna salad we make at the store is based on the way my mom prepares hers. It’s made with capers, parsley, lemon juice and lemon zest; no mayonnaise.”
Are there any new additions on the horizon? Chandler would like to do more catering, anything from lunch platters for local businesses wine & cheese for your pre-dinner, an elegant cocktail party, a backyard casual dinner, or a full sit-down dinner.
“We are expanding our prepared foods, and more selections for our take-out
Dinners: meatballs, eggplant parmigiano, spinach or pork lasagna, chicken gravy simmered in tomato sauce, pesto Alfredo, linguini and clams, baked ziti, and several sauces, all offered on a rotating schedule. We have a well-versed staff who have worked here for years and know their products.”
These grab and go meals are a wonderful real-food alternative to fast foods, and perfect for a boat outing or picnic, or on the way home from a busy work day.
One wonders, has it been difficult for a well-traveled gal from Northern Virginia with roots in Italy to settle down in Easton? Not so much.
” I enjoy this community, everyone we’ve met has been engaging and genuinely nice, interested in what we have and receptive to Piazza. We always love it when people come in and tell us where they’ve been in Italy.”
The market also features a big map of Italy to look over as well as food and travel books on the country known for its incredible food, architecture and art.