Mark Galletta knew as a teenager that he wanted to own an Italian specialty store. His great-grandfather, who came to the United States in the late 1800s from Santa Marina Salina, a town on a small island just north of Sicily, settled first in New York City and then about 60 miles north in Beacon, where he sold fruits and vegetables.
Galletta, a software engineer at America Online, and his wife, Myong, a civil engineer with Experian, started searching three years ago for a building near their Leesburg home that could house their dream. Last June they found a small house -- a former florist shop -- in the town's historic district, and from October to March they upgraded and restored the building.
Forsaking their engineering careers, the couple opened Galletta's on St. Patrick's Day at 211 Loudoun St. SE, offering a variety of pasta made daily in the store's open kitchen, sandwiches, prepared foods, Italian meats and cheeses, and other Italian products.
"We thought people here needed an Italian specialty store," Mark Galletta said. "Going into Arlington is a long way," he added, referring to the Italian Store on Lee Highway near Spout Run.
Galletta's is a family affair. Mark Galletta coaxed his father, Joe, an IBM engineer for 30 years, out of retirement in New Jersey. Joe and Mark's mother, Joann, have joined them in operating the store.
"My dad has cooked -- though not professionally -- for 55 of his 70 years," Galletta said. A cousin is also helping out during summer break from college.
The recipes for sauces and prepared foods are family ones. The meat sauce was handed down from a great-grandmother, Giovanna Galletta.
On a recent afternoon, Joann Galletta was helping customers while her husband and nephew prepared lasagna and her son tended to the slicing machine. Joann Galletta offered samples of roasted red and yellow tomatoes, cipollini (small flat Italian onions) marinated in balsamic vinegar, provolone cheese and prosciutto.
The store sells three types of prosciutto: Parma, from the Emilia-Romagna region; San Daniele, from Friuli; and speck, a smoked prosciutto from Alto-Adige, the northern region of Italy that formerly belonged to Austria. The prosciutto di Parma I purchased from Galletta's was the best I have bought in this country, with a sweet, buttery taste and texture. Galletta's also sells salamis, mortadella (the original bologna) and pepperoni. Most of the meats and cheeses are from an importer in Philadelphia.
Joann Galletta explained that the egg pastas -- linguine, fettuccine, pappardelle and lasagna -- are made fresh daily, and what isn't sold is discarded at the end of the day. Fresh ravioli are frozen or are cooked to be sold as prepared meals. "They get mushy after one day if they aren't frozen," she said.
The shop also makes fresh versions of the hard-wheat pasta usually sold dried in packages, such as penne rigati and conchiglie (shells).
The Gallettas are producing about 20 pounds of egg pasta a day, just a small fraction of what their Italian machines can handle. The shop's ravioli-stuffing machinery can process as much as 300 pounds an hour, and the extruding machine can turn out shapes such as penne at 100 pounds an hour.
The day I visited, Galletta's had sold out of lasagna, so I purchased a pound of three-cheese ravioli (made with ricotta, Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano) and a container of Nonni's meat sauce and prepared them for dinner. The ravioli's pasta was toothsome without being too thick, and the filling was flavorful and rich, not the least bit rubbery. The meat sauce was simply wonderful, with the sweet flavor of San Marzano tomatoes, the meaty flavor of beef and pork, and just a touch of cinnamon as an accent.
Galletta's also makes and sells marinara (tomato), lemon cream and vodka sauces, as well as basil pesto.
There is a small selection of sandwiches and salads, and there are a couple of tables on the small glassed-in front porch where you can eat. Mark Galletta said the shop also can fill special orders for such items as pizzelle (waffle-shaped cookies) made in-house.
The store also stocks such Italian staples as rice (arborio and carnaroli), olive oil, vinegar, breadsticks and crackers.
"We may make our own biscotti, because we have been tasting different brands and can't find one that we like," Galletta said.
A freezer is stocked with Bindi Italian ice cream specialties. Galletta's makes its own filling for cannoli shells the store purchases.
Galletta's 211 Loudoun St. SE, Leesburg, 703-737-3700, www.gallettas.com. Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays. Parking on the street and behind the building.
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