New market brings Italian flavors to Waunakee
After COVID-19 forced the restaurant Eugenia Mazza was working at to close, she found a silver-lining: opening her own small business.
Since Eugenia Mazza can’t visit her family in Italy this summer, she’s bringing a taste of Italy to Waunakee with her new shop, Cibus Italian Market.
After COVID-19 forced the restaurant Mazza was working at to close, she found a silver-lining: she finally had the time to open her own small business.
“I always wanted to open something on my own but I never had the opportunity. I was always working,” Mazza says. “I never had the time to plan it [or] to think about it — until the pandemic happened.”
Mazza spent over two months planning the opening, finding Italian providers for her food products and seeking out a space in Waunakee for her market. She first visited Waunakee at 14 years old, and returned to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison where she received her master’s degree and her Ph.D. in Italian literature and worked as a teaching assistant. She named her shop Cibus after the Latin word for food, and chose a logo of an owl surrounded by olive branches, a reference to the Greek legend of Athena.
While she couldn’t let more than five people into her store on her opening day, Saturday, Mazza says she was happy to see customers exploring authentic Italian food. And importing that food was no picnic. Mazza says the greatest challenge to starting her market was finding suppliers that could get food from Italy to Wisconsin in the midst of a global pandemic.
“I chose some of the things that I grew up with and some of the breads and food that I used to find in the markets in Sicily growing up —things that remind me of my childhood,” she says.
Though she expects running the shop during the coronavirus to be challenging, Mazza is offering delivery and curbside pick-up to help customers shop safely. She also hope the range of food, including gluten-free pasta items, will attract customers to the store.
But Cibus offers much more than food. The store is packed with traditional handmade Italian ceramic designs, Mediterranean-inspired clothes, bags and earrings. Mazza makes some of the earrings herself out of recycled pasta boxes and decorates them with hand-painted designs.
Many of the products come from Mazza’s hometown of Sicily, Italy. Part of her drive to start the market was feeling homesick after she realized she couldn’t take her usual trip to Italy this summer.
“I usually go every year to Italy for a month in July and this time it was not possible for me to go,” Mazza says. “I felt really homesick, and I felt that I had to bring Italy somehow, Sicily somehow, here.”
Mazza hopes her store will expose patrons to new foods and recipes, and give Wisconsinites a little taste of her hometown.