Moody’s Deli owner Joshua Smith behind the deli counter.
WALTHAM — Go ahead and order one of the signature sandwiches, but then take a look around. Dozens of salami hang from the ceiling, and in the refrigerated cases you’ll find all kinds of tempting fresh and dried sausages, smoked meats, and other goodies. Yes, Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions makes tasty sandwiches, but it is first and foremost — under the name New England Charcuterie — a producer of artisan cured meats.
While you’re eating that pastrami or Italian sandwich, sit at one of the wood tables and, if you’re inclined, watch sausage dry in a glass-enclosed chamber. Moody’s, named for the busy street where it is located, opened its doors in November after a major renovation of the Italian deli Salem Food Store that had been in the spot for 38 years.
Moody’s chef and owner Joshua Smith, 37, had been a customer of the Italian market. His new business fulfills a longtime goal, “to launch my own brand of meats and have a storefront to sell it,” he says. Charcuterie, which Smith defines as the fabrication of meat, encompasses various products, made primarily from pork, such as fresh sausages, salami (dried sausage), bacon, ham, pates, terrines, and rillettes. He and his team produce traditional cured meats, such as Genoa salami, bresaola (cured beef), and pastrami, along with uniquely flavored salami like mole, sriracha, porcini, and Smith’s take on Greek loukaniko with orange zest, Grand Marnier, and fennel seed. Moody’s also sells its own kimchi, pickled peppers, and preserved lemons, and containers of lard, stock, and soup.
Smith’s 22-year career began with flipping eggs at a Charlotte, N.C., McDonald’s at 15. He began learning charcuterie at Charlotte’s Dean & DeLuca when he was 19. A French chef taught him, he says, “to take scraps and trim and turn it into value-added products.” After that, he “bounced around” working in a handful of restaurants and hotels in Washington State and California. A high-energy guy who guzzles a half-dozen espressos a day, Smith thrived on the intensity of working from breakfast shifts through evening banquets. In 2006, he married Tracy Jolles, a Wellesley native whom he met in North Lake Tahoe. He came to Boston about a decade ago, worked at the Four Seasons Hotel Boston for executive chef Brooke Vosika and at Michael Schlow’s Southwestern-style Tico.
Making charcuterie, a centuries-old practice of preserving meat, is not without challenges. In most cases, the meat isn’t actually cooked; it must be handled carefully as it is salted, spiced, cured, and dried. “Everything here is about refrigeration,” says Smith. Cold temperatures and the right amount of humidity are necessary for drying the meat and preventing the growth of harmful bacteria.
The chef’s ideas are turned into precise formulas by production manager David Viola. Unlike most cooked foods, which can be tasted within an hour or two, cured meats take four weeks (for a 2½-inch diameter salami) or as long as six or more months (for larger items). “After the second or third round, the product will be exactly where we want it,” says Viola, who has both a cooking and science background. “Generally, the slower and more gradual you go, the greater the depth of flavor,” he says.
Meats are showcased in the sandwiches. General manager Jesse Dionne says the most popular are the Katz — named for the famous deli on Manhattan’s Lower East Side — a warm pastrami sandwich with Swiss cheese and mustard pickle relish; Spicy Cuban, pressed with smoked ham, pulled pork, and sweet pickles; and the breakfast sandwich featuring sliced pork roll, egg, and melted cheese. Smith’s favorite is the bahn mi, a pile of crisp pork belly, country pate, smoked pork, daikon, carrots, and sriracha aioli on ciabatta.
Back for the second time in a month is customer Chris Chitouras, who’s enjoying the Katz and a bag of truffled potato chips. “There aren’t many places to get good tasting hot pastrami,” he says. “I was amazed that he makes everything here.”
“For us, it’s a priority to handcraft a good sandwich,” says Smith. Soon he’ll be adding a few nonmeat options to accommodate vegetarians. But there’s no hiding the deli’s specialty: “There’s a pig on the awning,” he says.