Soppressata drying from the ceiling, house-made fresh mozzarella, Roso balsamic glaze, charred Holland peppers, the smells of olive oil, fresh baked bread, and sharp cheese. This, along with the sound of a neighbor coming into the shop to exchange dollars for quarters and the sight of an older man slicing hunks of meat in the back define Artisan Food Valley.
At first, I was reluctant to go all the way to the urban boonies of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. With so many great vendors in the heart of Manhattan, why would I travel far to find a sandwich shop? I’d soon find out.
I met with Daniel, the owner, for an hour or so. As I was leaving, he asked me if I wanted anything to eat. I said I’d love a sandwich to go, chef’s choice. I waited until I got home to unwrap the mammoth that called itself a sandwich. That was mistake number 2. Number 1 was not ordering two sandwiches in the first place. The first bite was pure bliss: salty prosciutto, creamy mozz, oily and flavorful roasted red peppers, balsamic reduction glaze that coats your mouth, and fresh Italian bread, equal parts soft and crunchy. My eyes were opened. What was this sandwich oasis? I needed to know more.
I met with Daniel again, chatting with him while he made sausages in the back room of the shop. Daniel got started in the food industry working at Royal Crown Bakery in Staten Island when he was just 13 years old. At 22, after years of learning the ropes, he went into business with the partners. The partners all shared a passion for food and a desire to make things taste good. Daniel smirks and says, “We give each other a hard time. If something sucks, we let each other know. We’re each other’s toughest critics.”
In 2011, Daniel saw an opportunity, when a shop in Bay Ridge (Piazza Mercato) closed. He decided to open up his own shop, which would provide fresh, quality, authentic Italian food. Oh, and he also agreed to keep on a former employee of the old shop: 81 year old Tony, who also does everything in the shop from hand making sausages to arranging the antipasto.
I asked Daniel what his food philosophy is. His response, “The food’s gotta taste good.” Though simple, this mission stands strong. Daniel deeply believes in specializing in what you do and doing it well. Artisan Food Valley makes 85-95% of their products in-house and everything is made fresh daily.
Other than the food, the sense of community and the customer experience are the best parts of the place. Artisan Food Valley doesn’t exactly have a menu, so if you don’t know exactly what you want, just tell Daniel or Charlie what you don’t like, and they’ll hook you up.
While Artisan thrives on the neighborhood vibe of “one hand washing the other,” Daniel let me know that he has dreams to open a store in Manhattan in the next 5 years. But don’t worry; he’ll keep the Bay Ridge one too.
My last question for Daniel was, “What’s your favorite sandwich?” Daniel smiled and said, “Mortadella with a fresh squeeze of lemon. If I’m in the mood for something, that’s what I want to taste, and that’s what I want to eat.” Fair, but I think I’ll stick to my prosciutto and mozz, please.
Artisan Food Valley is truly a neighborhood gem worth checking out. And while you’re out in Bay Ridge, be sure to also visit Damien (he’s the guy in the vibrant skull doo rag with the southern drawl) at Hom to try the Green Eggs and Ham or visit William at Tie Dye Pig and try the Hickory Smoked Slab Bacon with Cinnamon Beurre Maple Sauce.
If you’re looking for Daniel away from Artisan Food Valley, you can find him at Pipin’s, the neighborhood watering hole, or at Campania, a coal fired pizza joint that reminds Daniel of his childhood in Staten Island. And of course, you can always find him by ordering from Cater2.me.
In Bay Ridge, the food’s “gotta taste good,” and that it does.