Stephen Clemente wants you to get into your kitchen and cook.
“Cook at home, experiment with flavor, just be active in the kitchen, it’s not always going to be pretty,” Clemente said inside his Olde Mistick Village store Semolina Pasta Shop.
The minimalist designed shop is full of pastas, sauces and oh yeah the smell of pasta cooking. It’s like walking into an Italian relative's or friends's house without the clutter, but with Clemente eagerly waiting to dish you up something flavorful.
“Everything in the shops you can try,” Clemente said. “I don’t want people to commit to something without trying it.”
Clemente opened his first shop Extra Virgin Olive Oil in January of 2012 with 10 different oils and vinegars.
Today, the shop has more than 40 different kinds and due to its popularity Clemente was able to open up Semolina Pasta Shop right next door.
“I opened up the shops as a homage to my grandmother,” Clemente said.
According to Clemente his grandmother who celebrated her 100th birthday in his stores always said an ounce of olive oil and ounce of vinegar a day for good health
The two stores work in concert with each other. The oils drive the pasta and while there are several staples visitors will always find in the stores most of them are seasonal. For instance the seasonal pumpkin olive oil makes the seasonal pumpkin fettuccine.
But Clemente didn’t open up the store to be a tourist attraction, but rather to get people to cook.
“We spend a lot of time talking about food and the goal is for to get people to take that home,” Clemente said.
It wasn’t that long ago though that Clemente wasn’t talking about food but dreaming of being a college president. That was his goal up until a few years ago anyways. Clemente comes from corporate America where he ran a publishing company in New Jersey. He started there as part of a mergers and acquisitions job. In December of 2010 he decided to leave that world and in a way he found his way home.
The stores are a celebration of his family especially his grandmother and the cooking skills she taught him. And the location in the Olde Mistick Village is a return to his childhood.
“I grew up in New Haven and we would come to the aquarium and then walk over to the village where I’d feed the ducks,” Clemente said with a smile.
The location he said was perfect for his stores as he didn’t want a mall but wanted a place where people could stroll around and be relaxed.
After a busy 2012, Clemente has big goals for 2013 with plans for another shop and hopes to begin teaching cooking classes at his stores.