There is no need to fly to Italy to enjoy what the country is known for — the food. LaFavorita Fine Foods Market Place in Oyster Bay has everything one might need to cook or eat a premade delicious Italian meal. The offerings, and there are so many, are made from ingredients imported from the country fondly referred to as “Bel Paese.” Among the large variety of cheeses, homemade ravioli and stuffed shells, shoppers will find DiMartino pasta, burrata, soppressata, rallini and gelato, made from apples and chocolate imported from Italy.
“All of our sauces are imported from Italy too,” said Robert Carleo, who owns and operates LaFavorita with his wife, Carla. “We have lots of stuff here too from the Bronx from Teitel Brothers, including dried sausage and dried Italian meats.”
Carla grew up around food. Her parents, who raised her outside of Naples in Sorrento, were great chefs and owned, operated and worked at restaurants.
Robert’s parents were from Sorento too, immigrating to America after they married. “He grew up in an Italian household where food was important,” Carla said. “We had that in common. And we both knew how to eat good.”
Carla’s mother was one of the grandmothers, from different regions in Italy who cooked for restaurants. “Mom represented South Napoli,” she said. “A few years later the restaurant decided to have grandmas of the world and my mother remained, representing Italy.”
Carla, who grew up in Brooklyn, said she and Robert always wanted to open a store. Her husband is from Queens, where his father owned a delicatessen, so he had an idea of what he needed to do to have a successful business. “Opening LaFavorita reminds me of my childhood,” he said. “My father ran the deli from when I was 8 years old.”
When the couple married in 2007 they lived in Williston Park. Six years ago, now parents, they decided to move to Oyster Bay. It is a good place to raise their two children, Carla said, but there was another reason the hamlet was appealing. “Oyster Bay didn’t have a store like ours and we liked the area,” Carla said. “I wanted to create a store where customers would say that we have what they remember their grandmothers had.”
The couple asked her brother, Mimmo Cascone, who had 30 years of experience in the restaurant business, to join them in creating a gourmet market that would be Italy personified. He can be found making the homemade mozzarella and sausage at LaFavorita and is one of the butchers.
Johnny Cruz, someone who worked for a long time in Oyster Bay delicatessens joined LaFavorita too. He is known for making mouthwatering sandwiches, and Robert said the customer’s love him.
“I’m very particular in what we have in the store,” Carla said. “I don’t buy just to buy. The tomatoes and oil are chosen for a reason. All of the food is Italian and we sell a lot of unique imported items. I seek out things you don’t find easily. “I always say, ‘Quality, not quantity.’”
Carla said that many Italians come to her store as do their grandchildren. Perhaps it is because LaFavorita carry’s only prime meat or maybe they come for the fresh mozzarella that she said is made with the best curd. Or it could partially be the welcoming atmosphere.
“I take pride in customer service,” Robert said, “and make sure that everyone is happy when they come in and when they leave.”
One of LaFavorita’s most popular offering is its family meals, which Robert said they began offering when they opened. The meal, reasonably priced and cooked daily, includes a protein, vegetable and starch and feeds a family of four. It is an opportunity for customers to try what LaFavorita offers in the way of quality food. The family meals have become so popular, Carla said, customers also come from the surrounding areas.
Different each day, the meal is planned in advance and listed on the store’s website. Carla and Robert meet with their chef and discuss how they want to execute the meal. “We come together to make what we think our customers will like,” Carla explained. “We make an Italian recipe with an American twist.”
In everything that is made, LaFavorita only uses fresh herbs and make its stock from scratch. The tomato sauce is not overloaded, she said. High quality tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil are used. And garlic powder and oregano are never included in LaFavorita’s sauce. Carla said they never cook anything with butter, using olive oil instead.
The height of Covid was hard on LaFavorita. The store had to close for three months, Carla said, only providing takeout. “There were days we wouldn’t be sure we could stay open,” she said. “We applied for the loan and that is what kept us here.”
Word seems to be getting around about LaFavorita. People tell their friends, Carla said, who tell their friends. The store is growing little by little. The Carleos have much hope for the future and say they remain happy to be a part of Oyster Bay.