On a typical Saturday morning in historic Waltham, a suburb of Boston, people queue up and wait for breakfast and lunch counter service at Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions. Maybe they are ordering the The Katz pastrami sandwich composed of delicate tendrils of meat with a pickle mustard and Swiss on rye bread, or the Pork Roll Breakfast sandwich with homemade New Jersey-inspired pork roll and spicy ketchup. This isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill egg-and-cheese-on-a-generic-English-muffin sort of place. This is the real deal, featuring dozens of homemade charcuterie, doughnuts, truffle chips, hot sauces, and made-to-order sandwiches. And it’s all delicious.
Created and founded by Joshua Smith, Moody’s is now one of the most famous purveyors of fine charcuterie and meats in the greater Boston area, serving some of the Northeast’s most exciting restaurants and beyond. Moody’s features nearly 180 products in their repertoire, which are rotated seasonally and can be purchased in their storefronts, online, or found in gourmet markets around the country. Smith is even running a large manufacturing site where he is selling his artisan meats to over 50 clients wholesale around the US.
When discussing Moody’s, Smith is so infectious about meat and charcuterie. He’s literally giddy, and his passion is contagious. Smith grew up in Charlotte, NC and New Jersey. He had no formal culinary education, but always enjoyed food. At 15 he worked at McDonald’s, and then at Dean & Deluca where one day the butcher didn’t show up and Smith learned the ins and outs of cooking from French Master Chef Charles Semail. That’s when the addiction started, learning how to tackle charcuterie at age 19.
Feeling restless, Smith hitchhiked to the West Coast for a period of time. He worked at various restaurants and eventually found himself at the Four Seasons where he incorporated his passion for creating homemade meats. After falling in love with his wife, they relocated to Massachusetts and settled down in the sleepy town of Waltham.
With a few more restaurants under his belt in Boston and an itch to make more meat, Smith was determined to find a safe learning and experimental place for chefs to work and create homemade charcuterie. Backed by his former employer, the Four Seasons, Smith went to Iowa State to learn about cured meats and to hone his culinary skills. He began consulting for a few chefs in the area, and finally laid his eyes on an old Italian deli in Waltham, which he bought and re-opened as Moody’s.
With a growing family, Smith wanted to find a work-life balance so, with the help of his silent partner, he started Moody’s as a breakfast and lunch spot. Smith established a great rapport with the USDA and started making homemade sausage and pork rolls, which basically put him on the map. Three months after Moody’s opened, this Jewish boy from the South’s signature and sought-after breakfast pork roll was on the cover of Boston Magazine; a made-to-order, mouth-watering egg, cheese, and pork roll sandwich, topped with spicy ketchup.
As Moody’s took off, Smith started to strategize how he could help chefs and farmers. He began to build a community, developing relationships not only with hungry customers, but with chefs and restaurateurs who believed in sourcing local food and sustaining relationships with other farmers and purveyors. Chefs began to come to Waltham to get their fix on hand-cured meats and Smith would sell wholesale over the counter.
Cheese goes hand-in-hand with meat, so Smith added onto the deli concept, creating The Backroom: a swanky, chic wine bar spot with a wood fire grill and oven behind the deli area. He has plans to add on and create another space dedicated to his other love–seafood. And he is even working on a taco and BBQ bar. Smith reflects, “It’s crazy to think that a sleepy street in Waltham will soon boast a deli, wine-and-cheese restaurant, raw bar, and taco bar. One can basically enjoy handmade salami, flatbreads, oysters, and braised tacos in one place.”
More Boston Bests
In addition to his brick and mortar shops, Smith is very focused on his 10,000 square-foot manufacturing site, also set in Waltham. His wholesale business, New England Charcuterie, is taking off with about 70 clients, and you can find his meats in places around the country, such as epicurean hot spots like Murray’s and Eataly, but also farm stands and other markets in Bermuda and Miami, hotels and, of course, restaurants. Local Charlestown, Mass. restaurant Brewer’s Fork showcases Moody’s meats on his menu. “I have had a unique perspective on Moody’s and New England Charcuterie as I am not only a wholesale customer of theirs but I worked there for the first year of their existence while I was opening Brewer’s Fork. In addition to the fact that you can taste the quality in the product itself, I know firsthand that Josh has a ‘no compromise’ policy on everything: If it is the best ingredient, the best equipment, the best people, he wants it no matter the cost. The restaurant and food business is often driven by people trying to drive costs down. Moody’s focuses on their commitment to quality and that begets a product that is second to none,” says John Paine, owner and chef of Brewer’s Fork. “That is why they have been so successful.”
So how does Smith do it? Pork, love, and time, combined with patience, passion, and respect for the animals. Smith and his team are obsessed with quality and are fanatic about details. For instance, the coarse gray sea salt he sources (and has even raked) hails from the Ile de Re in France and he swears it’s what makes his bresaola shine. He’s even spent $10,000 of his own money to fund a study at Penn State that proves his method of curing whole muscle meat can become shelf stable through slow curing.
Smith has also developed great relationships with meat purveyors both on a local level and with cattle ranches from the Midwest. The animals are treated well, and often times Smith will pay farmers an advance so that the animals will stay on the farms longer (meaning they age and have a chance to gain the most optimal weight, often reaching as much as 350-400 pounds per animal). Smith believes in seasonality and being creative—from nose to tail. In the fall months, he plays with making sausage; in the winter he focuses on terrines and pâtés; and in the spring and summer he explores whole muscles and smoked meats.
“I love chaos–The more crazy it gets, the more focused I get.”
Header image courtesy of Moody's.