By Ginger DeShaney
The line to get into the Dirty Italian on opening day Saturday, July 22, was out the door and down the sidewalk on Old Colony Avenue.
“Everything is going great,” said owner Talya Pessolano, who estimated they made 300 sandwiches on Saturday alone. “This last weekend was crazy. Crazy good.
“I’m beyond thankful for the crew that showed up to not only work the opening weekend but to everyone who waited in line patiently to come into the store and try one of our sandwiches and really be there for the grand opening day,” added Talya. “And I really can’t wait to have them come back again and try something new.
“I’m always so appreciative of the support that comes from our local community.”
The Dirty Italian offers a wide array of hot and cold sandwiches, dinners to go, grab-and-go charcuterie boards, a variety of salads, desserts, pastas, and sausages – all homemade – and so much more. Talya creates larger charcuterie boards but those need to be ordered ahead of time.
Talya has known since she was a teenager that she wanted her own shop. She credits working at Frigo Foods in Springfield, MA, with her “aunt and uncle,” Lisa and Joe Frigo, with instilling a love of food. (Lisa and Joe are helping out at the Dirty Italian and a butcher block and cheese wheel from Frigo’s are proudly displayed in Talya’s shop.) At 14, Talya started out behind the deli counter, and by 19 she had become the store’s youngest general manager. Over the course of her Frigo career, she learned how to make sausage, how to cut veal, how to trim prosciutto, crazy knife skills, and so much more. She now is teaching her staff those same skills.
At Springfield College, Talya majored in business, then got her MBA. “I really knew deep down I wanted to open up my own store because all of my projects, my business plan that I had to do as my final, and every other kind of business-related tasks that I had for school, I always based it off of my own hopes and dreams to open up a store.”
So, when she was ready to pull the trigger, she used the business plan she created in college, with a few tweaks.
After college, Talya worked in the software industry. “Even though I was selling software for years, I just always saw myself behind a counter helping people,” she said.
Talya started doing charcuterie boards for friends and family on the side in 2020 to keep busy during COVID. Her friends urged her to start an Instagram account to showcase her boards. A month after starting the account, Caught in Southie found her and posted about her. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I have to get this going!’ ”
After only a few days of being open, she already is going gangbusters!
The top three sandwiches from opening weekend were the Dom (crispy chicken cutlet, melted asiago & pecorino cheese, fresh arugula, & lemon dressing), the PESTOlano (crispy chicken cutlet, imported prosciutto, melted fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, fresh arugula, and pesto dressing), and her namesake, Talya’s Dirty Italian (peppered ham, mortadella, hot capicola, hot soppressata, hot mix, asiago cheese, lettuce, tomato, EVOO & vinegar).
Where did the name Dirty Italian come from?
After graduating from college, Lisa and Joe asked her what she’d like for a graduation gift. “I want a sandwich named after me,” Talya said.
She had a customer who would come into Frigo’s and ask for the classic Italian, but he wanted her to make it dirty by adding hot pepper mix. So eventually, whenever that customer saw Talya, he would cut the line to get to her and he would say to her, “I want a classic but …”
“And I would have to say, ‘Make it dirty.’ My aunt and uncle were like, ‘OK, we’ll call it the Dirty Italian.’ And I was like, ‘No, Talya’s Dirty Italian.’ ”
It became an inside joke with friends and family, so when she started her charcuterie side gig, she knew she had to incorporate the name.
Talya has lived in South Boston for 10 years and knew this was where she wanted to open her shop.
“The community itself is so warm and outgoing. Everyone is so supportive, no matter what you do. I’ve always had the feeling that everyone watches out for each other and it’s really shown through the restaurant community,” Talya said, noting that other owners have been so helpful to her through the whole process.
“So I just knew immediately from the get-go that this was always going to be somewhere that I wanted to really keep my roots.”
She’s already thinking ahead of what she can add to the menu, including beach specials, boxed lunches, specialty items, and more grab-and-go dinners. She is also going to offer classes
“I love hearing the feedback from the customers,” Talya said. “I want to get more feedback. It’s been really, really fun. I really do enjoy having the feedback from the customer, because if you don’t, then I’m never going to improve.”
The Dirty Italian is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Instagram: @talyasdirtyitalian
- Website: https://thedirtyitalian.com/