Grandsons of Italy deal in food—go figure!
All photographs from the Masiero family collection
Long before the term “foodie” entered into American popular culture, two young second-generation Italian Americans from Manchester- on-the-Sea on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, decided that the central Berkshires desperately needed better-quality food. They started their store along Route 7 in south Pittsfield in 1979 as a seasonal enterprise, offering a limited section of fresh fruit and vegetables from early spring until mid-autumn.
The pent-up demand for high-quality produce was so great; however, that Chris and Matt Masiero moved to a year-round operation and in 1982 opened a brand-new store just north of the Lenox-Pittsfield town line. In addition to produce and groceries, the store carried meat, seafood and pasta sold by tenant businesses. The brothers use that same business model today, although the tenants have changed over the years. Chris and Matt called the store Guido’s, after their father, Guido Masiero, a school teacher in Manchester, MA, who had loaned Matt $2,500 to open his first business—a short-lived flower stand in Lenox. Guido had long wanted to go into business, but with a family of seven children to support found it necessary to stick with teaching and a variety of parttime jobs after school and in the summers.
“My father always, always wanted to be in business for himself, that was his dream,” Chris now says. “And he kind of lived his dream through us, which made him very happy.”
Chris and Matt each got an early start in the food business, working as teenagers after school and during summers at a market in Beverly, MA, owned by a family friend. After high school, Chris went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, then worked several years as a chef before joining Matt in business.
Younger brother Matt first went into the construction business, following in the footsteps of his grandfather. Dominic Masiero had come to the United States from Italy in the early 1900s, worked as a mason in New Jersey (while also tending bar) and moved to the Berkshires after World War II to run a popular family-style restaurant on Route 20 in East Lee, the Here You Are Inn. His son Guido, after serving in the Army during the war, worked at the Here You Are, where he met a local girl, Renie Dal Barco, herself the daughter of two Italian immigrants. Guido and Renie were married in 1951 and eventually had three boys and four girls.
Chris and Matt, born in the 1950s, brought their family’s strong work ethic to the store they named after Guido. Matt would climb into a secondhand truck at 3 am to drive to the New England Produce Center in Chelsea, north of Boston, where he bought fresh produce. He drove back to Pittsfield in time to work with Chris putting the goods on display for eager customers.
Matt regularly made that trip five nights a week for 25 years, and repeatedly thought of quitting the business because the hours were so long and hard. Frequent truck breakdowns, invariably with a full load of food, also took their toll in the early years. “When I told him [Guido] I didn’t know if I could do this anymore, he begged me not to give up. He begged me,” Matt says. “He wanted us to be in business for ourselves.” Guido helped out at the store on weekends and during summer school breaks, then became a regular presence there after he retired from teaching in 1989. He particularly enjoyed helping customers select their produce and loved to engage in conversations such as the following, with a customer looking at cantaloupes:
CUSTOMER: I need a melon that will be ripe tomorrow.
GUIDO: Yes, but what time tomorrow?
For the two brothers, being in business has come to mean more than running one store. In 1989, Chris bought the El Italia restaurant, farther south on Route 7, and renamed it Zampano’s. The restaurant was a perfect match because it enabled Chris to make use of unsold produce from the store. Chris worked at both the store and the restaurant for several years, eventually selling Zampano’s in 1994. Profits from the sale of Zampano’s enabled the brothers to build a second Guido’s on Route 7 at the south end of Great Barrington, which opened in 1995. That store met a growing demand for topquality food in south county—including from a rapidly rising population of second-home owners.
In the mid-2000s Chris and Matt began considering a move, or expansion, of the Pittsfield Guido’s, which had become much busier than the brothers had envisioned two decades earlier. After considering several options, they settled on a major renovation and expansion, which they started in 2010, keeping the store open even as workers moved walls and installed new fixtures.
Completed in 2011, the “new” Guido’s has a more contemporary look than the old one, with wider aisles, easier-to-reach displays and a small café. Even though Guido, who died in 2006, is no longer around to help customers pinpoint the exact minute a melon might be at its best, the two stores carrying his name still offer the bestquality food and excellent customer service that his sons Chris and Matt envisioned when they came to the Berkshires 34 years ago. Younger brother Paul has followed Chris and Matt into the food business. Like Chris, Paul attended the Culinary Institute of America. But unlike Chris, Paul has continued to cook professionally, working in a broad range of kitchens from the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia to several inns and restaurants in the Berkshires.
In 2000, Chris learned that the Baba Louie’s Sourdough Pizza Company restaurant in Great Barrington would be put up for sale. Chris passed on the tip to Paul, who—along with his wife, Eileen— seized the opportunity.
Encouraged by Guido, Paul and Eileen opened a second Baba Louie’s in Hudson, New York, in 2005. They took advantage of another opportunity in 2010, opening a third restaurant in the space vacated by the Berkshire Brewery on Depot Street in Pittsfield. That restaurant is now the largest of the three Baba Louie’s, with seating for more than 200.
For more than three decades, the Masiero brothers have enabled people in the Berkshires to enjoy the kind of quality food that used to be available only in big cities. Dozens of other entrepreneurs have followed their lead, making the Berkshires a true haven for foodies of all kinds.
760 South Main St.
1010 South St., Pittsfield
Baba Louie’s Pizza
34 Depot St.
286 Main St.
517 Warren St.