BURLINGTON – Do you love Italian food? Of course you do, but you probably don’t love it as much as Joe Faro, the Owner and ‘Chief Food Taster’ at the sprawling Tuscan Kitchen in Burlington.

“Tuscan Kitchen is an artisan Italian experience. We are taking scratch Italian specialties, and we are celebrating those with our guests.”

Faro’s passion for Italian food runs deep. He created a gourmet pasta company that he sold in 2006, opened the first Tuscan Kitchen in Salem, New Hampshire in 2010, and now has a brand new location in Burlington that is the culmination of all his life experiences.

“You know what? My whole life has revolved around artisan Italian food,” he said. “I’m the son of Sicilian immigrants that came here in the late 50’s. Grew up in a little Italian bakery, and just have always been around scratch artisan Italian cuisine.”

Here are a few facts you should know about Tuscan Kitchen. The place is enormous, about 14,000 square feet. The restaurant is awash in warm woods and low lighting, with seating for more than 500. Just to get to the dining room, you must walk through the Tuscan Market, where fresh pastas, prepared foods, pizzas, panini and irresistible desserts practically call out to customers.

Despite the size of the space, virtually everything is made from scratch.

“We make all of our own breads, all of our own pastas, all of our own desserts, gelatos. We’re actually starting to make our own salumi, which is sopresatta, salamis, and things like that,” Faro explained.

Each meal at Tuscan Kitchen starts with a basket filled with housemade focaccia and ciabatta. Joe and his team bake thousands of loaves every week, and that bread provides a delicious preview of what’s to come.

Housemade focaccia and ciabatta at Tuscan Kitchen (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Housemade focaccia and ciabatta at Tuscan Kitchen (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“I think that it sets the tone for the meal, because once you see how amazing that bread is, I think you realize that, ok, these folks really do walk the talk. They really make everything from scratch. They’re that passionate about it that they would take the time and energy and effort to make all these things, because it is that much better.”

The menu is loaded with Rustic Italian dishes, with appetizers like Arrancini in a Tomato Porcini Gravy, and Meatballs made with a blend of beef, veal and pork, that are putting Italian grandmothers out of business.

“I can’t tell you how many people come up to me and say, ‘I have to tell you, these are actually better than my grandmother’s. Don’t tell her,’” Joe shared. “I don’t know your grandmother. How would I tell her?”

Meatball appetizer at Tuscan Kitchen (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Meatball appetizer at Tuscan Kitchen (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

While Joe may not know your grandmother, he knows a whole lot about pasta, and he puts that knowledge to good use in dishes like Tortelli stuffed with Short Rib; Canneloni filled with braised veal; and Bolognese tossed with giant Rigatoni, which is a perfect pasta to pair with the sauce.

“It’s delicate, but yet it’s got a certain al dente texture to it, that works very well with the sauce. Very rough, so it captures the sauce as well, and actually it’s our number one selling pasta. It’s a very simple dish, but it’s a lovely dish.”

Bolognese tossed with giant Rigatoni at Tuscan Kitchen (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Bolognese tossed with giant Rigatoni at Tuscan Kitchen (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

When it comes to meat, there’s really one dish you’ve got to eat, the 28 ounce, aged Rib eye, with a sea salt and rosemary crust, and roasted garlic jus.

“It’s huge,” Joe stated. “It’s also known for having a very long bone. The bone is literally like sixteen inches long, and it looks like a Fred Flintstone steak. If you really wanted to, you could pick it up from the bone and actually eat it like that.”

28 ounce aged Rib eye at Tuscan Kitchen (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

28 ounce aged Rib eye at Tuscan Kitchen (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Making so much food from scratch requires quite a crew. They work inside a large open kitchen with a long counter in front, where guests can enjoy their meal, and the lively atmosphere. Those have quickly become the hottest seats in the house.

“Those seats sell out first. You’ll have couples that will go there just for the theater of it all. You get to see everything kind of happen. The wood grill is right there in front of you. You have the prosciutto slicer; you can see the pizza oven; and our open kitchen is dramatically more open than most because we want you to come eat in our home,” described Joe.

Home really is what Tuscan Kitchen feels like for Joe Faro, because for him, great food is everything.

“This is where I belong. I was born to be in the restaurant business. I’ve been in the food business for 25 years and I’ve always enjoyed when people love the food that we’ve created for them.”

You can find Tuscan Kitchen at 24 New England Executive Park in Burlington, across from the mall, and at 67 Main Street in Salem, N.H. Their website is tuscanbrands.com.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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