CANFIELD, Ohio – The concept for Napa Grocery grew from its owners’ vast experience in the restaurant business and an understanding of changing consumer habits.
Customers who try the California-style deli and specialty grocery will find it to be something completely new to the Mahoning Valley.
Napa Grocery, co-owned by Nunzio Scordo and Aaron Hynek, opened June 24 at 4350 Boardman-Canfield Road in Canfield, in a space formerly occupied by Peaberry’s café.
Customers can buy freshly made gourmet-quality food at the kitchen counter, pay for it at the cashier’s register and then find a table in the dining area or on the patio, or take it home to eat.
A menu of frequently changing meat, fish and poultry dishes, determined by what is in season and at its freshest, will be prepared daily by chef Scordo.
“We’re trying to make this place an ode to California but more in a philosophical way,” Scordo says. “California cuisine is farm to table, super seasonal, using local ingredients. We’re taking that concept and putting it into this building, with some café seating and a retail section that has food items that you can’t find in other stores.”
Items in the retail grocery comprise pastas, sauces and jars of imported vegetables, hummus and other items.
“You could find similar foods [around the Valley],” Scordo says, “but not these brands and not this level of quality.”
But the main focus of Napa Grocery is the prepared foods. The owners’ goal in developing the concept was to minimize the stress, manpower and time-consuming workload of a high-end restaurant, while putting more energy into the quality of the food.
“The idea is to offer restaurant-quality food,” Hynek says. “You can come in and order it – and leave with a package to take home and serve to your family.”
Scordo and Hynek are trained chefs with decades of experience in restaurants. At Napa Grocery, Scordo will handle the kitchen and Hynek the front of the house. They will switch duties as needed.
The owners are targeting foodies who have an appreciation for fine dining, fresh ingredients and convenience.
“We’re not going to be the cheapest place,” Scordo says. “We’re aiming to be a place for people who really know food, a mecca of all things good in the food world.”
There will be grab-and-go prepared foods in deli containers, as well as fresh-from-the-oven entrées available to buy at the counter.
Scordo explains with this example: “I could have a whole herb-roasted tenderloin [on a given day] and a customer could say, ‘Give me three slices,’ and I’ll ask, ‘How thick do you want them?’ ”
Each day, Scordo will also prepare different kinds of seafood, including crab cakes, and “anything we can come up with that we know will be good food and seasonally driven,” he says. There will also be a seafood boil every Saturday, he says.
A daily special will be Roman pizza, another item he is introducing to the Valley.
“It involves a process of dough making that most people haven’t seen,” Scordo says. “Making the dough isn’t the typical six to eight hours. It’s a 48- to 72-hour process. There is a long fermentation period in which the gluten breaks down and it becomes very light and airy. It’s easy to digest and does not give you a full feeling. Once you have pizza like this, it will be very hard to have any other kind.”
One thing Napa Grocery will not offer is chicken francaise “and anything that you can get at any restaurant here,” Scordo says. “Our food will be driven by freshness, lots of herbs, salsas and condiments” and include lots of roasted meats.
The window-lined storeroom is at the front of a small plaza on U.S. Route 224 just east of Canfield, with plenty of parking. The owners spent about $200,000 to transform the space and have hired about a dozen employees.
Scordo and Hynek have been talking about the concept for 20 years. They both have decades of restaurant experience as chefs, managers and owners and have worked in several states and abroad.
Scordo, a native of Struthers, sold two restaurants he owned – Driftwood Southern Kitchen and Bodega Tapas – in Raleigh, N.C., to launch Napa Grocery. The restaurant business, he explains, can take over your life and the Napa concept is designed to simplify things and allow for more free time.
“I’ve been in the restaurant business for 30 years and I said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ ” he says. “We came up with this idea 20 years ago and now we can make it happen. It’s about doing what we love to do without the confines of a restaurant, to have a life and not work 70 hours a week, because that’s what the reality has been for the past 20 years. … This is a lot less stress. In the kitchen, it’s a prep job. In the front, it’s a deli and cashier job.”
The concept, Hynek says, allows them to make a top-quality product but with a more efficient operation. It also will take advantage of the shift in consumer habits toward takeout that the pandemic brought. “Pizza and takeout-place business exploded [in the past year],” he says. “This is a format where the food is packaged and when you get it home, it’s of the quality you expect it to be.”
Napa Grocery is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Pictured: Nunzio Scordo and Aaron Hynek are the owners and operators of Napa Grocery in Canfield. They invested $200,000 to transform the former Peaberry’s café into a high-end deli and specialty food store.