Visitors to Easton’s Simon Silk Mill starting next month will have a chance to buy Italian cold cuts and groceries and eat a meal — all under one roof.
That’s the vision of Mario Famularo, an Easton native and fifth-generation butcher, who plans to open Mario’s Italian Eatery sometime in October at Suite A-102 on the mixed-use mill property at North 13th Street and Bushkill Drive. Patrons can expect a comfortable, rustic Italian feel with a modern twist all in a “neighborhood-market” experience, he described.
Definitely on his list is bringing back the nostalgia that locals will recall from visiting Giacomo’s Italian Specialties, the iconic market and grill owned by parents, Giacomo and Gina Famularo. The couple, who settled in Phillipsburg and Garfield, New Jersey, respectively, after coming to the United States from Sicily, ran the business at 1215 Washington St. from 1975 to 2006.
Mario worked at the family market since childhood. He recalled at age 10 stocking shelves and working the register at Giacomo’s, he said.
Mario and his brother, Sal Famularo, in 2003 went on to open Giacomo’s Italian Market and Grille, 700 Cattell St. on College Hill. Mario left that business about five years ago to open Jack’s Beach Grille (named after his 9-year-old son) in Long Beach Island, New Jersey. He closed shop in late 2019 to move back to Easton full-time and start the new venture.
He also has ties to the Silk Mill, with Gina having worked there as a seamstress at what was then R&H Simon Silk Mill. The cultural redevelopment project for creative working and living is now home to businesses like Gentlemen’s Barbershop, County Seats Spirits, Easton Wine Project and Dance Design Studio, which is co-owned by Mario’s wife, Addie.
“I knew there was a need for something like this, not only for the Silk Mill tenants, but for the surrounding community,” Mario said.
Mario’s inspiration, he said, comes from Italian markets he has seen across New York City and Boston. Recipes are time-honored family traditions he learned side-by-side with his parents, such as tomato sauce, fresh cut pasta and sausage.
“To get a more authentic experience, you’d have to take a plane ride to Italy,” Mario said of the eatery.
Other menu items will be homemade soups and salads, meatball and sausage sandwiches, paninis, gourmet pizza and other entrees. For breakfast, there will be frittatas and bagels from New Jersey and New York vendors. Mario also plans to offer Italian coffee, cappuccino and biscotti, as well as an assortment of desserts. Patrons can buy Italian-imported specialties such as various sauces, artisan cheeses, olive oils and vinegar. The butcher will have an assortment of meats. There also will be some seafood items, such as tuna, along with fresh breads and fresh local produce.
Price points for the items are still being ironed out but he expects it to be reasonable on wallets. There will be dine-in, delivery to the surrounding areas, takeout and curbside takeaway. He also allows BYOB.
Over the past near two decades in business, Mario said he knows a lot of locals by name. Patrons from start to finish will be treated with a personal experience, he said.
“I’ve been around this area my whole life,” said Mario, who graduated from Easton Area High School. “No one is just a number.”
As of now, there is indoor seating for 60 people and outdoor seating for upward of 25 people due to restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic set forth by Gov. Tom Wolf. That amount, however, is expected to grow in capacity. Wolf announced that restaurants that have been operating at 25% capacity can open to 50% capacity starting on Sept. 21 — in time for Mario’s grand opening.
Mario earned a bachelor’s degree from Penn State University in graphic arts and advertising. He worked for various New York-based publications prior to 9/11. He is using his skills to paint wall murals featuring a Vespa and other Italian scenery at the new business venture.
Future plans include catering for corporate events and family milestones. He plans to also hold various community fundraisers, including selling T-shirts to benefit The Children’s Heart Foundation, an organization dear to the family after Mario’s son, Giacomo “Jack” Famularo, underwent open-heart surgery at age 2 to repair an atrial septal defect.
The eatery also hopes to bring an estimated 20 jobs to the Lehigh Valley. Currently, there are positions listed on the eatery’s Facebook page for short-order cook, general manager and counter service.
Tentatively hours are planned for 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Saturday. Mario and Addie live in Easton with “Jack,” now 9, and the couple’s younger son, James, 3.
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Pamela Sroka-Holzmann may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.