It was over a decade ago, and Frank Salvaggio of North Babylon was liking what he saw in downtown Bay Shore.
Bay Shore, he believed, had something many other areas of Long Island were lacking in: character.
“You could really see the character,” he said, even though Main Street was still years away from enjoying the full-blown renaissance it is today.
Not only that, Salvaggio knew there were no other Italian pork stores nearby. He also believed his food would capture the attention of the boaters and ferry riders heading through Main Street on the way to the water. His hunches were proven right.
Salvaggio, his wife, Maria, and his brother Dominick — all natives to Italy — opened Frank and Maria’s Italian Pork Store at 10 West Main Street on June 8, 2006, and have enjoyed steady growth since.
And Frank & Maria’s has done its part to contribute to downtown’s resurgence; the business expanded in August 2012 into the much larger space next door, which the family calls Il Mercato, Italian for “The Market.”
They offer everything from sausages made in-house, to prime cuts of meat that Frank Salvaggio butchers himself, to cold cut sandwiches, catered dishes, gelato, espresso drinks and specialty Italian and Sicilian imported grocery items. You’ll even find fresh produce in Il Mercato.
“At the beginning, we didn’t do much advertising; it was all word of mouth,” recalled Frank Salvaggio’s daughter Giovanna Salvaggio, now 29.
“We’ve had the same customers since Day 1, so we really know everyone that comes in.”
back in business
Frank & Maria’s Italian Pork Store isn’t Frank and Dominick Salvaggio’s first rodeo.
The brothers, with the help of their dad, Giovanni, first purchased a butcher shop in the early 1980s that they called S&S (Salvaggio and Sons) on Dry Harbor Road in Middle Village.
They transitioned it from a German shop to an Italian-style butcher shop that had German offerings as well.
It was a hit in the neighborhood.
They were young, too; Dominick was 16 and Frank Salvaggio was almost 20.
But they already knew enough to be successful, because they had worked from such an early age.
“Growing up, we either worked in butcher shops, food stores, grocery stores or delivered papers,” Frank Salvaggio said. “I happened to luck out and came across a butcher shop, and the guy took a liking to me and taught me the businesses. And Dominick had started cooking at an early age.”
The brothers later sold the successful business to its prior owner, who then ran the shop another 15 years.
During that time, from the mid-1980s into the 1990s and beyond, Frank became a mechanic for jetliners while Dominick ran multiple restaurants and got involved in the fashion industry.
Two decades passed before they decided to rekindle the magic of the 1980s.
Why did they even consider going back into business together?
Well, the Sept. 11 terror attacks happened and the commercial airline industry was tanking. Jobs and benefits for airline workers were being cut, and Frank feared about providing for his family.
“We put our knowledge together and that’s how we can up with the concept,” he said.
After nearly two years of planning, they opened to immediate fanfare.
There’s almost always an owner at Frank & Maria’s, and probably an additional family member, too.
Frank and Maria’s three daughters have all worked at the shop that Giovanna, also a graduate of Long Island Culinary School in Syosset, now manages full-time.
She says their customers know they can get anything they want there.
“My uncle [Dominick] is the chef, so we just cater to whatever your needs are,” she said. “Even if it’s not on the menu, we’ll make it. I guess it’s just customer service at its finest.”
Offering what the Salvaggios describe as the freshest and best-prepared food available in the business helps, too.
The family isn’t throwing a big 10-year anniversary party. But they have been offering specials here and there to mark the special occasion.
Meanwhile, the prophetic Frank Salvaggio predicts an even brighter future — not only for the shop, but the downtown as well.
“I took a big chance but I knew there was this potential in Bay Shore,” he said. “That character is really coming through now.
“I think this place is going to get even better.”