They say the most important meal of the day is breakfast, but for Jessica Walsh, only one meal really makes her happy and that’s dinner. “I grew up in an Italian household where dinner was a big deal every night. My father asked my mother, every morning over a cup of coffee, ‘what’s for dinner tonight?’ and I’ve learned to think the same,” she says.
When you think of Italian food, the closest association is the thought of an endless bowl of fettucine alfredo or a hearty slice of pizza, but the culinary history of Italy is far deeper than that your average slice of faux-authentic pizza. Walsh, owner of the new Worcester loving retail space, Worcester Wares, stays true to her roots when playing capocuco in the kitchen. Prepping dinner for six close friends at the Walsh house is like walking into Rome and asking the chef to make you the best dish they have. “Making food for friends would entail making the traditional Italian dish, braciole – think steak rolled up with prosciutto, garlic, parmesan cheese and simmered in a deliciously rich tomato sauce,” says Walsh. “I’d serve it over penne – because, why not – and I would even start the dinner with a tomato and mozzarella salad and end it with a raspberry chocolate tart for dessert.” If eating with Walsh is like this for her closest of friends, we need to be part of this circle.
While growing up Italian instilled a culinary trait at the heart of Walsh’s personality, it also created a lover and admirer of all foods. “My dining room table and kitchen counter is where I’ve had some of my most favorite and meaningful conversations of my life – over the exchange of food – but I love dining out too. Especially in Worcester,” smiles Walsh.
Standing tall for her love of Worcester and as a supporter of the Renaissance movement circling every corner of the city, Walsh can’t help but dive into some of the latest additions to the local food hub. “I frequent many places in Worcester – including Figs & Pigs, Wooberry, Lock 50, Dalat, BirchTree Bread Company and deadhorse hill, to name a few and the best part of dining out in the local food scene is that I always run into someone I know. People I may only see in a professional capacity, I can see out of the job and in a real setting. Food is a great equalizer.”
“As much as I would want to have great food at any dining experience – it would be just as important to me to have great company to share the meal with,” she says. “Everything tastes better when you eat it with the people you love and I know its cliché but it’s true. Throughout my life, food was always part of the moment we all stopped to connect. It provided a break from the rest of the day and stress. I’m just happiest when eating with friends and loved ones – whether it is around my kitchen table or out at a local place.”
Living without food is like living without air and we can all attest to this. Whether you are eating for necessity or pure enjoyment, there is nothing like biting into your favorite dish after a long day and for Walsh, that means tacos at El Patron. “It’s all about those carnitas and green sauce,” says Walsh. “I love my mom’s ‘party cake’ – a coconut, pineapple cake with homemade cream cheese frosting and her meatballs and I love my mother-in-law’s pork pies which she serves with pickled beets and gherkins but anyone who knows me, knows that I am the absolute happiest when I’m eating tacos.” We can’t find a way to disagree with her. The tacos at El Patron are authentic and the serving portion is large, so after a long day of supporting the “Love Worcester” movement, sitting down at El Patron with a tequila drink, a taco and some close friends, is the ideal way to spend a Wednesday evening.