By Rina Rapuano
Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011
Five years ago, Juliet Kaufman was a regular at a tiny Italian market in downtown Frederick. There, she often stocked up on hard-to-find Italian pantry items and ordered sandwiches from the deli counter.
"One day [the owner] asked me if I wanted to buy his place," says the 42-year-old Filipino native, who has lived in Frederick for 23 years. "I thought he was kidding. Next time I came back, he said, 'Are you going to buy my place or what?' "
So she did, renaming it Juliet's Italian Market & Cafe. In doing so, Kaufman - who had cooked for years in others' kitchens, including Frederick's Wishing Tree Cafe and Stone Hearth Bakery - fulfilled a lifelong dream of owning a shop. And although Italian isn't her native cuisine, she was committed to keeping with the traditions of the original owner, such as making her own mozzarella. She learned how, and now she turns out 50 to 100 pounds of it a week.
That fresh mozzarella lends a mellow creaminess to the Caprese sub ($6.95), which gets a flavor punch from house-made pesto, vinaigrette and thinly sliced tomatoes. It also appears on the California panino ($7.75) along with turkey, tomatoes and guacamole.
But our favorites are the popular muffuletta ($8.50), which Kaufman added to the menu within the past year, and the meatball sub ($7.95), available on Fridays only.
Whether you go with subs or focaccia panini, the sandwiches are massive. But none is as big as the muffuletta, jam-packed as it is with Kaufman's crunchy olive salad (a sort of giardiniera on steroids) plus mortadella, capicola, Genoa salami, mozzarella and provolone. The warm, zesty meatball sub, loaded with an excellent tomato sauce and provolone, is big enough to serve two.
Grab an Italian soda from the drinks case and a crisp, cinnamon-coated snickerdoodle ($1) from the cookie jar near the register, and you've got lunch to go or to eat at one of the handful of tables in the store and out front under the waving Italian flag.
Aside from the sandwiches, Juliet's has all the DIY makings of a great picnic: Dried sausages, breads, crackers and cheeses are available, making this the perfect place to stop on the way to fall farm excursions and leaf-peeping day trips.
Home cooks can find farro, smoked mozzarella, authentic ladyfingers, mascarpone cheese and Parma butter, among other things. And those who lack Kaufman's kitchen skills can pick up her frozen meals, such as lasagna, manicotti and eggplant Parmesan in three-pound portions for $12 to $14.
It might be cheating, but we won't tell a soul.