First Posted: 8/22/2013
Editor’s note: With new businesses jockying for position on Main Street in Pittston, we decided to turn our sites to the mainstays, the businesses that have weathered the storm for decades and remain an integral part of the thriving downtown. This is the third in an occasional series of stories profiling those businesses.
One word: sopressata.
You don’t need to search long for a sandwich with that famous dry salami at Sabatelle’s Market food stand at the Pittston Tomato Festival.
Rest assured, it’s typically the stand with the line six people deep.
Two decades as part of Pittston’s iconic end-of-summer food fest will get you that kind of recognition – that and 35 years as Main Street’s fine Italian food source.
“This year was our 20th year at the Tomato Festival but it seems like 20 minutes,” owner Jane Sabatelle said.
The family-owned and operated market has been a staple of the downtown since the Sabatelle family purchased the store in 1978. Ever since then, meats, cheeses, sauces, oils and vinegars are some of the traditional Italian delicacies that husband and wife, Rocky and Jane Sabatelle, have perfected from their own family recipes.
“All those things are specially made and you just can’t get them everywhere,” Jane said.
First just a meat market, Sabatelle’s, with long-time butcher Rocky at the helm, would go on to add fresh-cut meate. Slowly, the market evolved into makingits own homemade pasta and offering hoagies.
“Then we exploded with hot food and catering in the last 15 years,” Jane said.
Gift baskets are not uncommon. In fact, the market features several specialty baskets that include some of the largest selections of imported Italian food in the area.
Jane added that you don’t need to wonder about the improvement the city of Pittston has made in recent years.
“All we hear is compliments about how beautiful it is and how people love coming into town,” she said. “It’s definitely drawn the public back in to just being downtown.”
The improvements to the downtown surely help. But Jane says one thing in particular sets her family’s store apart from all the rest.
“’You’re somebody special at Sabatelle’s,’” she said. “That’s what we always say. We try to really put customer appreciation above everything else.”
The store has flourished, thanks to its customer first attitude but also because – like many of Pittston’s other landmark businesses — it has stood the test of time.
“When we first opened, I said ‘I’ll give it five years,’” Jane recalled. “Now, here we are over 30 years later.”
“We’ve been lucky enough to be here for so long,” said son, Jason. The 42-year-old learned the trade from the very best after taking over for his father, Rocky, and overseeing the deli in recent years.
“My dad was extremely tough and it had to be his way,” Jason said.
“He’s such a pro that if you didn’t do it his way, you’ll see it didn’t come out as it should,” he said. “We’re always successful because of that.”
A particular area of success for the family has been aided by the city’s recent prosperity. In particular, the growing popularity of the Tomato Festival and the number of people it attracts.
“This festival is setting itself apart from other festivals,” he said. “People want to come here and it was never, ever like that. That just goes to show that the town has improved so much.”
“It brings an influx of people that are excited to be back in their old neighborhoods and see each other.”
The 30th annual festival wrapped up last Sunday, with an estimated 50,000 guests shuffling around and about Pittston’s revitalized downtown.
“We’re thrilled to constantly be a part of it,” Jason said. “Maybe we’ll be a permanent fixture.”