There’s a long vacant storefront in the heart of the Historic Derby Street neighborhood in which I always saw immense potential. You know the place, on the corner of Derby and Beckett. For ferry riders, it’s a first glimpse of Salem commerce and from it one can see the Harbor sans power plant.
Chef-artist Jean-Louis Faber saw that glimmer of potential too as he was looking for a storefront from which to create and sell his handmade, gourmet ravioli and fresh pasta. Other potential locations had more foot traffic or parking but the Derby Street location kept drawing him with its light and view.
When I stopped in to the Jean-Louis Pasta Company one weekday afternoon about a month after its opening, I could see from the street through the store’s huge plate glass windows that Jean-Louis was elbow deep in his work. Seafood Delight had sold out over the weekend, Jean-Louis told me in his heavy French accent which he hasn’t lost since leaving Paris a couple decade ago.
He’s a classically trained chef with an artistic eye and he takes pride in bringing these parts of himself together in the creation of innovative pasta shapes, colors and ravioli fillings. Think: black bean, monterrey jack and cilantro; or Gorgonzola, walnut and apple. Five cheese, sure, but also escargot or lobster.
On hand Jean-Louis has housemade dry pasta and bottled sauces, olive oils and dips, but the real reason to visit this end of Derby Street is for his thirty different flavors of ravioli. Each day Jean-Louis replenishes the ever dwindling supply of bags of 10 frozen ravioli priced from $6-$15 in the freezers that wrap around the store.
Clear instructions for boiling insure a creative meal for two in minutes. I’ve found it’s not even necessary to sauce, maybe a little butter.
All of which me looking in my long vacant freezer seeing potential: gourmet midnight snacks or impressive impromptu dinner parties.
Vive la ravioli!
Jean-Louis Pasta Company
84 Derby Street, Salem
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Jonathan Simcosky regularly blogs at www.jonathansimcosky.com.