Salem, Oregon.Image by David Mark from Pixabay
I grew up in what I think is a typical Italian-American family, with big feasts on Sundays and holidays. My uncle owned and operated Gabrielle Macaroni, a company that made a variety of pastas with machinery he imported from Italy.  He sold his pastas to several Italian specialty markets and restaurants.
Going to the Italian market as a child was a weekly outing to pick up meats, cheeses, olives, and pastas. It was the closest I got to “experiencing” Italy before I was old enough to travel there and see it first-hand.  So the Italian market holds a special place in my heart.
When I learned that a new Italian market was opening up in my area, I was thrilled. I had to check it out. Like a child on Christmas Day opening gifts, I experienced the same excitement, joy, and curiosity visiting Gayle’s Italian Market in Salem, Oregon for the first time.
The owner, Gayle Caldarazzo-Doty and her manager, Judy Hillman have created not just a “market,” they have created an “experience” – and to an Italian, or anyone else for that matter, that’s important.
The market is located in the historic McGilchrist and Roth buildings on the corner of State and Liberty streets in downtown Salem.  Built in 1916, the buildings had been empty and dilapidated before Gayle and her husband, Doug Doty, purchased the buildings in February 2013 and invested several million dollars restoration.   Opening the Italian market fulfils a 25-year dream.
A wine shop within the market, St. Urban Cellars, is managed by John and Denise Swanson.  John is very enthusiastic about the selection of affordable wines he stocks from a variety of countries including Italy, Spain, Argentina, and France, as well as a few local Oregon wineries.  They offer wine events regularly – a must to attend!
Heading over to the meat counter, I was greeted by Steve Cunningham, formerly of Roth’s Fresh Markets.  Steve is a very knowledgeable butcher and fishmonger and proud of the market’s meat and fish selection.  I had to purchase some of his homemade Italian sausage to try.
The cheese and deli counter brought back memories of my childhood with its portions of big cheese wheels just like I remember my Italian relatives bringing to us when they returned from Italy. Okay, so did an episode of “I Love Lucy” just stream through your head? All kidding aside, the imported and local cheese and deli meat selections looked amazing.  I had to take some home for more taste testing.
Gayle’s has coffee (installation of a custom-made cappuccino and espresso machine will be completed in January), Italian waters and sodas, candies, pastries, pastas, polenta, and the oh-so-hard-to-find “00” flour.
If you can’t find what you need, the staff is happy to take custom orders. The authentic brick pizza oven, built with reclaimed brick first created in 1916, takes center stage in the store for individual pizza orders. If you are planning a dinner or reception, Gayle’s also offers catering, and a banquet room for up to 130 guests will be opening soon in their downstairs level.
I’ve gone on and on about the food, drinks, and wine, when Gayle’s Italian Market is so much more. Artfully displayed around the shelves of tomatoes, pestos and pastas are tea towels, decorative dishes, cookbooks, candles, and cards. The mezzanine level features creatively displayed gifts and other items you didn’t know existed but discover you want and need.  I had to take time out and look at items more carefully, so I ordered a cup of coffee and perched myself at one of the window tables to leaf through a few cookbooks that I suspect will become favorites.
You know that food to Italians isn’t really about nourishment, it’s about the experience and the camaraderie with the people at the table. Gayle’s Italian market is definitely a destination, a place you can call home – a place that will take you back to your childhood.  Be sure to visit when you are in Salem, Oregon and enjoy making happy memories for the future!
Gayle and Judy have great plans to bring additional features to the store including cooking classes. Visit them on Facebook at doty.50?

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