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Dublin

DelRossi’s Trattoria celebrates 25 years of food and music

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Elaina and David DelRossi are the duo behind DelRossi’s Trattoria, a one-of-a-kind venue that successfully married an unlikely couple: fine Italian cuisine and live Bluegrass music. This year, they celebrate 25 years.

You’ve heard the saying, “Food is love?” Well, the DelRossi story is a wonderful love story that started when two kids from Jaffrey boarded a plane for Europe in 1971. They were not a couple, were not even traveling together, not really. They planned to go their separate ways as soon as they landed in London.

But Elaina and David never said goodbye when the plane touched down. They’ve been together ever since, nearly 45 years. They worked hard, stretched their pennies and squeezed a lifetime of adventure and romance, great food and music, and new friends from their $192 round-trip tickets. Their two-week trip unfurled into nearly two years of living and working abroad.

The 20-somethings cooked at hotels and restaurants in England and Germany. They got to know London and Paris, Frankfurt and other cities and villages. At the Gara Rock Hotel, a four-star country resort on the southernmost coast of England, David began fine-tuning his culinary interests and was quickly promoted to assistant chef. His parents and grandmother had a hand in that.

David remembers running home for lunch from Jaffrey grade school. No peanut butter and jelly for this kid. A typical lunch was pasta and meatballs. There was always fresh pasta hanging on racks overhead. On Sundays, all his relatives came up from Boston and after hours of cooking, the family sat down to fresh pasta and seafood, sausage and meatballs, the best marinara, bread and wine. David remembers always loving to cook.

Elaina and David returned home from Europe, in 1972, with a journal full of favorite recipes. They married in May, and, for lack of other options, opened their first business, Independent Help, Inc. They advertised house cleaning, yard work, window washing, and catering. “We were used to working hard. We could and would do anything,” Elaina said.

Strangers to no one, their friends became clients, their clients became friends. One client-friend offered them financing for a restaurant — and in 1974 they opened the Corner Kitchen Restaurant, in downtown Jaffrey. It was a 12-seat breakfast and lunch joint. David continued to spread his culinary wings and in short order, the cafe’s success demanded a bigger space. But there wasn’t a space big enough and cheap enough, so they sold the restaurant and turned to their other love: Music.

They opened Fiddler’s Choice music store in 1978, the best-stocked, best-run shop of it’s kind anywhere in New England. In today’s dollars, the couple carried about a million dollars worth of guitars, fiddles, banjos, mandolins and other acoustic inventory. They had the best of everything and musicians regularly traveled to them from Boston and further.

This music store business was a perfect fit for the toe-tapping DelRossis. The line between work and play was wonderfully blurred. Besides selling instruments and accessories at the shop, they sold at outdoor festivals. And every weekend, for nearly 10 years, with Elaina on rhythm guitar and vocals, and David on lead guitar and banjo, their bluegrass band No Time Flat played to bluegrass devotees.

In 1987, their next venture was just around the corner. Elaina and David were headed north from Jaffrey, to a friend’s wedding in Hancock. They saw a “For Sale” sign on the Appleton Family property, located on a bend in the road on Route 137. The 1789 Georgian Colonial farmhouse was spectacular, and a spectacular wreck. All 18 rooms.

“Everything needs fixing,” said Elaina’s step-father, a master carpenter. But the couple was determined, and with the help of a family investor, their cash offer was accepted and the work began.

After long days of hard, dirty work, Dave and friend, Tim Garfield, returned home to David’s mom’s house in Jaffrey to cook a gourmet dinner, experimenting and creating with taste and texture, balance and blend. A menu was developed, dish by dish, just as each room of the restaurant was renovated and furnished. It all had to come together at the same time, and it did.

As they remodeled the old farmhouse, friends begged them to put in a stage for live music. It was never part of their plan, but bluegrass and folk music fans pleaded their case. So they built a stage in the corner of the largest room and wired it for sound. The Folkway in Peterborough was just closing, and the local community of music-lovers was accustomed to having great live music nearby.

In April 1989, the couple opened Delrossi’s Trattoria. Everything that bound Elaina and David DelRossi together — love of travel, food, music and people was now under one roof, in a small town, just a few miles north of where they’d grown up. They had brought it all together in their sprawling farmhouse: their restaurant, their music store and their home. They sleep above the Trattoria and only a few steps from their shop full of guitars, banjos and fiddles.

Walk through the door and get some fried calamari, and a plate of pasta or seared scallops. Buy your first and last guitar, and even book some lessons.

Elaina teaches fiddle, mandolin and guitar and does repairs. David teaches guitar and banjo.

The restaurant walls are lined with signed photos of some of the hundreds of musicians who have graced the stage. They thank Elaina and David for the gig and the lasagna or ravioli. They promise to come back from Nashville or Memphis or LA or wherever.

Alison Kraus, Iris Dement, John Hartford, Tim O’Brien, Norman and Nancy Blake are some of the artists who have played this stage. They or their agents called the DelRossis asking for a gig. Not once have Elaina or David called anyone and asked them to come play. The musicians just keep coming, or at least that’s how it’s been for the first 25 years.

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