Danielle Magno grew up in a Boston suburb with a large community of Italian immigrants, her parents among them. “Food,” she says, “was the priority in my family — like, okay, we’ve just had lunch, now what’s for dinner?” She got her first restaurant job as a teenager, went to culinary school, then worked in kitchens for a decade, including one where she met her husband and fellow cook, Darius Salko. Eventually, they decided to take a break from the restaurant grind, and so they spent a couple of months working on farms in Italy.
In 2017, after moving to Brunswick to be near Salko’s mom and brother, the couple decided to start their own farm, Senza Scarpe (Italian for “without shoes”). It’s a small operation — one greenhouse, a patch of field, and pens for chickens and rabbits, on a little more than two acres. Salko, who grew up on a hobby farm in Pennsylvania, also has a construction business that eats up much of his time. “Maybe one day I’ll get to where I take construction jobs just for fun and this is what I do,” he says, “but right now it’s the other way around.” That leaves Magno to do lots of the planting, tending, and harvesting, while also keeping an eye on their two young children. And she manages to find time for baking — cookies, cakes, pies, and focaccias.
Hand pies and cookies $3, focaccia $10–$12, cakes $12, pies $15.
Senza Scarpe baked goods, produce, meats, and eggs are available at the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market, open Saturday mornings outside Flight Deck Brewing (11 Atlantic Ave., Brunswick). Pre-order — and sign up for weekly updates — by emailing [email protected]
The farm sells meats to local restaurants, including Brunswick’s Taverna Khione and Enoteca Athena, where Senza Scarpe rabbit makes appearances on the menus.
Not all focaccias are created equal. Some are thicker, some denser, some drier, some crunchier. Magno’s focaccia is the paragon of focaccias. Typical recipes, start to finish, take a few hours, but her process takes more than 24 hours, because she starts by leaving yeast, flour, and water to interact overnight. The result is a bubbly froth of leavening, which, coupled with baking at close to 500 degrees, turns the inside of the bread into a gossamer matrix of dough and air and creates a contrastingly crunchy edge. “It’s reminiscent for me,” Magno says, “of the kind of pizza I had as a kid, Sicilian-style, with a thick, fluffy crust.”
And much like a pizza, her focaccia is loaded with toppings: tomato and mozzarella, pesto and olive, roasted vegetables, wilted greens with garlic and Winter Hill Farm blue cheese — whatever’s in season and can be plucked from Salko and Magno’s farm or a nearby one. The lineup of produce — greens, tomatoes, herbs, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers — changes a bit from year to year, and whatever Magno doesn’t cook with, they sell at the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust Farmers’ Market, along with the eggs, chicken, rabbit, and baked goods.
Last year, Magno turned baking into a year-round venture, selling directly from the farm during the off-season. Without fresh ingredients for focaccia in the winter, she used vegetables she’d frozen earlier in the year, plus tomato sauce and pesto she’d made with Senza Scarpe’s tomatoes, basil, and greens. The contents of her hand pies, whole pies, and cakes vary with the seasons, making her big chocolate-chip cookies the one constant. For those, Magno chisels chips from 11-pound blocks of Belgian chocolate and lets the vanilla-accented dough chill in the fridge for two days before baking, melding all the flavors.
She and Salko have ideas about adding a commercial kitchen, hosting farm dinners, maybe renting nearby fields where they could raise other animals. For now, though, they’re focused on how best to utilize the space they have. “We’re still just figuring things out,” Magno says. “But I love baking, and I’ll never want to stop that.”