CORNELIUS – Tony Stafford, owner of Ferrucci’s Old Tyme Italian Market, is explaining how New York lines up with this area of North Carolina.

“See Exit 25 is Long Island and Mooresville is like upstate New York,” Stafford said. “But Exit 28 is like Brooklyn and Queens with the largest mix of Northerners from that area and beyond.” Stafford has a lot of ideas about life, food, people and T-shirt slogans (Parma is Good Karma; Olive You; Hot or Sweet?) and loves holding court with his staff and customers at the market. After all, the best dish is only as good as its worst ingredient, and so Stafford and company aim for always amazing.

Stafford grew up in New York and began working in a meat market at age 14 in Brooklyn. By age 21, he owned a butcher shop but lost the lease; then he opened another butcher shop in Queens and again lost the lease.

So he began working on the wholesale end of the meat industry, selling to other butcher shops. He then met his wife, Maria, a full-blooded Sicilian woman, who worked on Wall Street but loved to cook.

“She grew up the way I grew up, actually the way my entire staff grew up,” Stafford said. “With Sunday meals, that lasted the entire day.”

These meals were full of food, family and fun.

Maria, the perfect combination of a visionary and researcher, wanted to open a place of their own. She went to visit a friend in Charlotte and fell in love with the area.

After her due diligence with market research, Maria realized that Exit 28 was the perfect place to open the shop. They moved to the Charlotte area in 1993 and Maria worked for Price Waterhouse while Stafford worked for the meat department of Harris Teeter.

Then, finally, in August 1999, after years of working toward their goal: Ferrucci’s Old Tyme Italian Market opened.

They are hitting the 15-year anniversary this month, and Stafford couldn’t be prouder.

In 2009, Maria died of an illness, but her spirit is everywhere from recipes to mantras, and Stafford is happy to keep their dream alive.

The staff at Ferrucci’s love food and they love to talk to customers about food.

If you ask for salami, staffer Doug Lopes is going to take you on a culinary tour with tastes from hot to sweet, going far beyond the standard Genoa.

In 2001, Mel Locascio was hired to help out at the market; she has been there ever since.

“It’s a family atmosphere here,” Locascio said. “We all are very close.”

They are very clear about what is imported from Italy, what is bought from local vendors and what is made in-house.

Customers just need to ask, but a majority of items are made right there in the back kitchen.

All of the sausages start with large hunks of meat that are spiced, ground and cased by Stafford himself.

“It’s just meat, spice and love,” laughs Stafford.

The market also ages its beef and makes many of the cold-case items. There are high-quality steaks to take home and grill.

“It’s like a steak-house meal,” Locascio said. “But you don’t have to tip anyone at the end.” Maria’s mantra was always to use five ingredients or less, Stafford said. One of the many ways she was truly ahead of her time.

The market also sells hard to find Italian specialities, such as Bucatini pasta, which is a thick and spaghetti-like with a hole in the center.

And Burrata a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.

The name Ferrucci was Maria’s grandmother’s name and the market is a testament to a woman who was well loved by her husband and staff.

“My wife was a true entrepreneur,” Stafford said. “People just keep coming back. For 15 years they’ve just kept coming back.”

Want to go?
Ferrucci’s Old Tyme Italian Market
Shops On the Green
20910 Torrence Chapel Road, Cornelius