When Dustin Smith opened the Morse Block Deli in Barre two years ago, he hoped to capitalize on the extensive building improvements and new Vermont state office complex that many believed would lift the Granite City's downtown economy. But then Smith got busy with other projects, and he decided to sell the business.
Two weeks ago, Stefano Coppola took over. Armed with a New England Culinary Institute degree and experience at Three Penny Taproom and other well-regarded local restaurants, Coppola is working to further Smith's original farm-to-deli vision.
Meats now come from local producers who supply a superior product at prices comparable to — and often lower than — those of former Morse Block cold-cut supplier Boar's Head. That's a priority, Coppola says: "I wanted to bring prices down so this place could be more affordable for everyone."
Jacob and Justin Finsen of Mad River Food Hub-based Artisan Meats of Vermont supply Morse Block with hot-smoked "pit ham," and soon they'll add corned beef and pastrami. Coppola sous-vide cooks other meats, including maple-bourbon-brined turkey breast and torched roast beef, and makes condiments from scratch.
Most of the breads come from Northfield's La Panciata bakery. Coppola has put a new focus on take-home items such as prepared salads, local cheeses, charcuterie, marinated chicken, cut-to-order local steaks and, on Fridays, fresh oysters, which can also be shucked and slurped on-site.
"We want to facilitate people cooking better at home," Coppola says. "I cut a three-inch steak for someone the other day and, I have to tell you, that looks pretty epic."
Morse Block is now open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Coppola expects to expand his hours as the business finds its sea legs.
The original print version of this article was headlined "Butcher Block"