by Joshua Jerome
Stefano Coppola is the new owner of Morse Block Deli and is no stranger around the kitchen. Originally developing his passion for cooking with his mother and uncle preparing at home, Coppola snagged his first cooking job at the age of 16, working at a BBQ shack down south. However, cooking was not always a full-time. His love for animals persuaded him to work in animal medicine. After several years of helping pet owners, Coppola realized he wanted more joy and happiness in his professional day-to-day life. He decided to go to the New England Culinary Institute to further develop his cooking skills and become a culinary professional.
Coppola’s experience at New England Culinary Institute was very rewarding, as the connections and skills he forged during his residency helped foster new experiences. This training helped to develop who he is today as a culinary professional and as a steward of local agriculture. Coppola took the plunge into the restaurant industry working for a broad array of establishments from hotel to fine dining. After graduating, he realized he had fallen in love with the natural beauty and social climate of our great state, and decided to put down roots in Vermont.
He helped open up Menton in Boston, Crop in Stowe and South End Kitchen in Burlington before landing at Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier where he worked the last two years. The opportunity to purchase Morse Block Deli was presented to Coppola by a friend, with the allure of being able to control sourcing all of the ingredients and creating menu offerings of his own that would be too great to pass up. He dove head first into creating a business plan lining up the resources necessary to complete the purchase. Although the acquisition took a little longer than originally anticipated, Coppola has finally settled nicely into his new space.
One of the changes Coppola implemented right away at Morse Block Deli was to develop his own products like deli turkey, roast beef, mayo, mustards, dressings, pickles and some house-made bread to ensure the highest quality and affordability. Coppola says that he wants “to rid the pretentiousness and high price of local foods, making it more approachable and feasible for all customers to be able to eat well on a daily basis.” In addition, Coppola plans on holding artisan dinners to bring local producers and artisans together, offering a unique and intimate experience, as well as more spontaneous pop-ups (like last Friday’s Taco Night — featuring house made corn tortillas).
Coppola has increased the daily offerings in the deli case to include an assortment of meats, local cheeses, grain and vegetable salads and has also started taking special orders on specialty items like oysters. Local craft beverages abound and are taken very seriously at the Deli, with four taps housing Morse Block’s own house kombucha, a local cider and two beer options (one hoppy and one malty) for those looking to purchase growlers. Coppola is also excited about catering and is looking to grow that portion of the business as soon as the final adjustments in the deli have been made.
It’s not just Coppola that makes Morse Block Deli great. His former sous chef at the Three Penny, Kenneth Frank (who he first met while New England Culinary Institute) and Elmer Powers, who has been running the Deli since 2014 with the previous owner, complete the Morse Block Deli team.
For Coppola, being in the kitchen offers calmness and focus for his admittedly short attention span. Cooking requires a lot of multitasking, and running a restaurant even more so. “The kitchen is my second home and being able to feed and nourish the public makes every day a joy,” said Coppola. “Even in the organized chaos of a busy day, at the end — my team and I feel joy and accomplishment knowing we fed good, wholesome food to the masses.” You too can have Coppola feed you Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Morse Block Deli & Craft Beer Emporium.
The author is executive director of The Barre Partnership.