AYER -- Mark diCicco doesn't have a far commute between his two eateries. In fact, he doesn't even have to leave the building.
One kitchen connects both Lucia's Tavola and Markoh's on Main in downtown Ayer, where diCicco said Lucia's was the first to open in town last year; the doors at Markoh's have been open for less than two months. (diCicco's first Lucia's Tavola location in Brookline, N.H., closed only a few weeks ago.)
"I couldn't say no," diCicco said of the space that now houses Markoh's.
"It fills the gap," he added. "There are plenty of pizza and burger places around here -- and Italian now -- here we have our own unique niche."
The Markoh's space has an attached banquet hall which will serve as a mixed purpose space, including as a gallery for local artists to display their work. A patio in the back will be used to host Sunday brunch in the future.
The menu at Markoh's is not at all similar to that of Lucia's; we're talking two pages filled with steaks, chops and fresh seafood dishes -- many boasting a Southern flair (see bacon and cheddar grits).
The wine list too, is independent from that of Lucia's. diCicco tasked two of his wine representatives with compiling the lengthy list. "I said give me a menu that you would have if you had your own restaurant," diCicco said. "The results have been amazing."
The new venture allows diCicco and his wife Anne to source more food from local farms and grants them the ability to craft seasonal menus. The family has sourced produce from Brookdale Farm and Lull Farm in Hollis, N.H., in the past.
The diCiccos have taken both a local and innovative approach to sourcing their seafood, bringing their customers fresh fish from Red's Best in Boston, a boat-to-table fishing company. All fish for diCicco's daily specials arrive at the restaurant with a QR code attached. Customers are then welcome to scan the QR code with their smart phone to see where and when the fish was caught, as well as a photo of the fisherman who snagged it.
"You know what you're getting and you know it's supporting the local community," diCicco said. "We want local people to support us and in turn we support local people the best we can."
diCicco has further committed himself to his community by donating 10 percent of all gift certificate sales to the Loaves & Fishes food pantry in Devens.
"I personally challenge all local restaurants and businesses to do the same thing," he said.
Markoh's on Main
43 Main St., Ayer, 978-796-5260, markohs.com
- Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Friday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and Saturday (dinner only), 5-10 p.m. Closed Sunday.
- Reservations: Only accepted for large parties
- Parking: Plenty of parking on Main Street
- Menu: Upscale American dishes with a Southern influence
- Price range: Entrees cost $17-$36
- Atmosphere: Warm and casual
- Try this: Surf and Turf, Braised Pork Shank Rib, Lobster & Crab Cake, Espresso Tomato Bisque, Baked Peppadews, Mom's Potato Chips (baked to-order with parmesan, truffle and parsley), Baked Chicken Encroute, and The 2A Giant (a sandwich piled 7-inches high with roast pork, corned beef, turkey, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing). And for dessert, Elvis Cake (white cake made with pineapple jam, topped with cream cheese pecan frosting).
- Learn more: Interns from Southern New Hampshire University have developed a video campaign surrounding diCicco and Markoh's and have created a YouTube channel for the eatery (youtube.com/chefmarkohtv).